DPRK (North Korea) Chronology for 2016


DPRK (NORTH KOREA) CHRONOLOGY FOR 2016
Compiled by
Leon V. Sigal
Northeast Asia Cooperative Security Project
Contact:


1/1/16:
North Korean leader Kim Jong-un called for improved relations with South Korea, saying that he is open to talks with Seoul in an open-minded manner for unification. In his New Year’s message delivered live on the North’s television, Kim said North Korea can hold candid dialogue with the South, calling on Seoul to honor an inter-Korean deal reached in August to defuse military tension. “We are willing to have talks in an open-minded manner with anyone who wants peace and unification,” Kim said. “South Korea should honor the spirit of the inter-Korean agreement in August. Seoul should refrain from doing acts that hurt the conciliatory mood.” Kim did not mention North Korea’s nuclear weapons program. (Yonhap, “N.K. Leader Says He’s Open to Candid Talks with S. Korea,” January 1, 2015)

Kim Jong-un’s New Year Address: “…We should concentrate all our efforts on building an economic giant to bring about a fresh turn in developing the country’s economy and improving the people’s standard of living. …. In order to achieve breakthroughs for a turning point in building an economic giant the electric-power, coal-mining and metallurgical industries and the rail transport sector should advance dynamically in the vanguard of the general offensive. … Our Party maintains the improvement of the people’s living conditions as the most important of the numerous state affairs. The crop farming, animal husbandry and fishing sectors should make innovations to effect a radical change in improving the people’s standard of living. … The country’s defense capability should be built up. In this year, which marks the 20th anniversary of the movement of winning the title of O Jung Hup-led 7th Regiment initiated by General Kim Jong Il, the People’s Army should further develop itself into a revolutionary army of the Party in which the Party’s unified command system is thoroughly established, into a steadfast army of the Party that keeps the revolutionary faith to the death, and effect a turnaround in implementing the Party’s four-point line of building up the army to be formidable. By keeping it as the seed to conduct training in a real-war atmosphere and put it on a scientific and modern footing, the army should raise the fierce flames of training so that all the service personnel are prepared to be elite soldiers of modern warfare and stout fighters who are equipped with the military strategies and tactics of Kim Il Sung and Kim Jong Il, the heroic fighting spirit and flawless abilities to fight an actual war. It should become a standard-bearer and shock force of the times to make breakthroughs as intended by the Party on the major fronts where a thriving country is being built, and look for more tasks that are for the good of the people. Officers and men of the Korean People’s Internal Security Forces should smash in embryo the maneuverings of the class enemy and hostile elements to harm the leadership of the revolution, our socialist system and our people’s lives and property, and members of the Worker-Peasant Red Guards and the Young Red Guards should intensify combat and political training and fully prepare themselves to defend their villages. The munitions industry sector should develop defense science and technology, put the defense industry on a highly Juche-oriented, modern and scientific footing, and give full play to the revolutionary spirit of Kunja-ri, so as to develop and produce a greater number of various means of military strike of our own style that are capable of overwhelming the enemy. …National reunification is the most pressing and vital task facing the nation. Last year, greeting the 70th anniversary of national liberation, we appealed to all the compatriots to pool their efforts to open up a broad avenue to independent reunification, and strived for its realization. However, the anti-reunification forces that are not desirous of national reunification and improved inter-Korean relations ran amuck to realize their schemes for a war and even created a touch-and-go situation short of crossfire, causing grave apprehension at home and abroad. The south Korean authorities publicly sought to realize their goal of “regime change” in our country and unilateral “unification of systems” against the trend of inter-Korean dialogue and detente, and fanned distrust and confrontation between the north and the south. This year we should hold up the slogan “Let us frustrate the challenges by the anti-reunification forces within and without and usher in a new era of independent reunification!” and press on with the national reunification movement more vigorously. We should reject foreign intervention and resolve the issues of inter-Korean relations and national reunification independently in keeping with the aspirations and demands of the nation. It is none other than the outside forces that divided our nation, and it is also none other than the United States and its followers that obstruct the reunification of our country. Notwithstanding this, the south Korean authorities are clinging to a smear campaign against the fellow countrymen in collusion with the outside forces while touring foreign countries to ask for the solution of the internal issue of our nation, the issue of its reunification. This is a betrayal of the country and nation that leaves the destiny of the nation at the mercy of the outside forces and sells out its interests. The issues of inter-Korean relations and national reunification should, to all intents and purposes, be resolved by the efforts of our nation in conformity with its independent will and demands, true to the principle of By Our Nation Itself. No one will or can bring our nation reunification. The whole nation should struggle resolutely against the sycophantic and treacherous maneuvers of the anti-reunification forces to cooperate with the outside forces. The south Korean authorities should discontinue such a humiliating act as going on a tour of foreign countries touting for cooperation in resolving the internal issues of the nation. It is fundamental to realizing the country’s reunification to prevent the danger of war and safeguard peace and security in the Korean peninsula. Today the peninsula has become the hottest spot in the world and a hotbed of nuclear war owing to the U.S. aggressive strategy for the domination of Asia and its reckless moves for a war against the DPRK. The U.S. and south Korean war maniacs are conducting large-scale military exercises aimed at a nuclear war against the DPRK one after another every year; this is precipitating a critical situation in the Korean peninsula and throwing serious obstacles in the way of improving inter-Korean relations. Last year’s August emergency showed that even a trifling, incidental conflict between the north and the south may spark a war and escalate into an all-out war. The U.S. and south Korean authorities must discontinue their extremely dangerous aggressive war exercises and suspend acts of military provocation that aggravates tension in the Korean peninsula. It is our consistent stand to strive with patience for peace in the peninsula and security in the region. However, if aggressors dare to provoke us, though to a slight degree, we will never tolerate it but respond resolutely with a merciless sacred war of justice, a great war for national reunification. We should value such agreements common to the nation as the three principles for national reunification and declarations between the north and the south, and in conformity with them, open up an avenue to improved bilateral relations. These principles and declarations constitute the great reunification program common to the nation, and all fellow countrymen wish that they are implemented as soon as possible and a radical phase opened up in reunifying the country. If they are sincere about improving inter-Korean relations and reunifying the country peacefully, the south Korean authorities must not seek pointless confrontation of systems, but make it clear that they intend to respect and implement with sincerity the three principles for national reunification, June 15 Joint Declaration and October 4 Declaration, which crystallize the general will of the nation and whose validity has been proved in practice. They should cherish the spirit of the agreement signed last year at the inter-Korean high-level emergency contact, and desist from any act that will lead to a breach of the agreement and mar the atmosphere of dialogue. In the future, too, we will make strenuous efforts to develop inter-Korean talks and improve bilateral relations. We will also have an open-minded discussion on the reunification issue, one of the national issues, with anyone who is truly desirous of national reconciliation and unity, peace and reunification. All the Korean people in the north, in the south and abroad will smash all challenges and obstructive moves by the anti-reunification forces in and out of the country and build a dignified and prosperous reunified Korea on this land without fail under the banner of By Our Nation Itself. The United States has persisted in ignoring our just demand for replacing the Armistice Agreement with a peace pact to remove the danger of war, ease tension and create a peaceful environment in the Korean peninsula. Instead, it has clung to its anachronistic policy hostile towards the DPRK, escalating the tension and egging its vassal forces on to stage a “human rights” racket against the country. However, no plots and schemes of the enemy could break the indomitable will of our service personnel and people to firmly defend and add brilliance to our style of people-centered socialism, the base of their happy life. The challenges by the hostile forces remain uninterrupted and the situation is as tense as ever, but we will invariably advance along the road of independence, Songun and socialism under the unfurled red flag of the revolution, and make all responsible efforts to safeguard peace and security in the Korean peninsula and the rest of the world.” (KCNA, “Kim Jong-un’s New Year Address,” January 1, 2016)


1/3/16:
Stephen Bosworth, a long-time Korea expert who served as U.S. ambassador to South Korea and as Washington’s special representative for North Korea policy, has died. He was 76. Bosworth served as Washington’s top envoy to South Korea from 1997-2001 and special representative for North Korea policy from 2009-2011. He also served as executive director of the Korean Peninsula Energy Development Organization (KEDO) from 1995-1997. Bosworth was considered pro-engagement toward the North. In an interview with Yonhap last March, Bosworth expressed concerns about the lack of dialogue with Pyongyang, stressing that there is nothing constraining the North’s nuclear development. “What is important is the fact that North Korea continues to develop nuclear weapons. They are unconstrained. At least in the past, when we’ve been talking to them they had not been conducting tests, and they had frozen the programs that we knew about, at least. Now, they have no constraints at all,” Bosworth said at the time. “I think all the experts agree that in five years they could have many more nuclear weapons then they might have now. To deny that is to simply deny reality,” he said. In January last year, Bosworth also participated in “Track 2” meetings with North Korea’s chief nuclear envoy and other diplomats in Singapore, together with former U.S. nuclear negotiator Joseph DeTrani and some American scholars. (Yonhap, “Ex-U.S. Amb. Stephen Bosworth Dies,” January 5, 2016)


1/?/16:
The United States rejected a North Korean proposal to discuss a peace treaty to formally end the Korean War because it did not address denuclearization on the peninsula, the State Department said. State Department spokesman John Kirby made the comment in response to a Wall Street Journal report that the White House secretly agreed to peace talks just before Pyongyang’s latest nuclear bomb test. The newspaper, citing U.S. officials familiar with the events, said the Obama administration dropped its condition that Pyongyang take steps to curtail its nuclear arsenal before any peace talks take place, instead calling for North Korea’s atomic weapons program to be just one part of the discussion. Pyongyang declined the proposal, and its January 6 nuclear test ended the diplomatic plans, the newspaper reported. “‎To be clear, it was the North Koreans who proposed discussing a peace treaty,” Kirby said in an emailed statement. “We carefully considered their proposal, and made clear that denuclearization had to be part of any such discussion. The North rejected our response,” he said. “Our response to the NK proposal was consistent with our longstanding focus on denuclearization.” (Reuters, “U.S. Rejected Peace Talks before Last Nuclear Test,” February 21, 2016) Days before North Korea’s
latest nuclear-bomb test, the Obama administration secretly agreed to talks to try to formally end the Korean War, dropping a longstanding condition that Pyongyang first take steps to curtail its nuclear arsenal. [??] Instead the U.S. called for North Korea’s atomic-weapons program to be simply part of the talks. Pyongyang declined the counter-proposal, according to U.S. officials familiar with the events. Its nuclear test on January 6 ended the diplomatic gambit. The episode, in an exchange at the United Nations, was one of several unsuccessful attempts that American officials say they made to discuss denuclearization with North Korea during President Barack Obama’s second term while also negotiating with Iran over its nuclear program. Obama has pointed to the Iran deal to signal to North Korea that he is open to a similar track with the regime of Kim Jong Un. But the White House sees North Korea as far more opaque and uncooperative. The latest fruitless exchanges typified diplomacy between the U.S. and Pyongyang in recent years. “For North Korea, winning a peace treaty is the center of the U.S. relationship,” said Go Myung-hyun, an expert on North Korea at the Asan Institute for Policy Studies, a Seoul-based think tank. “It feels nuclear development gives it a bigger edge to do so.” The new U.S. sanctions and Washington’s efforts to raise pressure on China, Pyongyang’s main political and economic ally, will provide a test of whether the deadlock can be broken. The U.S. law goes further than previous efforts to block the regime’s sources of funds for its leadership and weapons program, including by extending a blacklist to companies, primarily Chinese ones that do business with North Korea. Existing sanctions targeted North Korean individuals and entities with little presence outside the country. Advocates of the law, many of whom cite the example of Iran, say more pressure was needed to deter North Korea. The law will force Kim to “make a choice between coming back to the table and ending his nuclear-weapons program or to cut off the funding for that program and for his regime,” House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Rep. Ed Royce, a California Republican, said recently. Skeptics, including those within the Obama administration, say North Korea is different from Iran because its decades of isolation limits the power of sanctions. Some say Pyongyang is increasingly using domestic technology in its weapons program and that many of the blacklisted Chinese companies are small with few other international dealings. “It’s not like Iran where they have a lot of vulnerability because there’s a lot of commercial activity,” a senior U.S. official said. The sanctions “will have an effect, but the real lifeline is the Chinese assistance.” While Obama felt emboldened by his success in reaching a nuclear deal last year with Iran, he has largely tried to use any momentum from that diplomatic effort to push for a political resolution to the conflict in Syria, rather than shift focus to North Korea. Iran and North Korea “are both countries that have a long history of antagonism towards the United States, but we were prepared to have a serious conversation with the Iranians once they showed that they were serious about the possibility of giving up the pursuit of nuclear weapons,” Obama said last October. But he added, “there’s been no indication on the part of the North Koreans, as there was with the Iranians, that they could foresee a future in which they didn’t possess or were not pursuing nuclear weapons. “ North Korea’s U.N. mission didn’t respond to a request for comment. Its state media agency wrote this month of the U.S.’s prioritization of nuclear talks: “This is just like a guilty party filing suit first.” The U.S.-South Korean missile-shield talks “further strengthens arguments of those in China who argue North Korea is a strategic liability,” said L. Gordon Flake, head of the Perth US Asia Centre at the University of Western Australia. “It’s becoming more difficult for China to give North Korea leeway.” For the U.S., coordination with China is important to pass new U.N. sanctions against North Korea. Some American officials said in the past week that China agreed to cooperate. “I think it unlikely that China wants to be seen by the international community as the protector of North Korea, given its recent outrageous behavior in violation of international law and U.N. Security Council resolution,” Susan Rice, Obama’s national security adviser, said last week. A Chinese vice foreign minister has said Beijing will support a “new, powerful” U.N. resolution, though added that negotiations are key to fixing the problem. But any external pressure faces the challenge of North Korea’s unwillingness to yield its nuclear weapons, especially after Pyongyang revised its constitution in 2012 to declare itself a nuclear-armed state. “Submitting to foreign demands to denuclearize could mean delegitimization and destabilization for the regime,” said Nicholas Eberstadt, a North Korea expert at the American Enterprise Institute, a Washington, D.C.-based think tank. (Alastair Gale and Carol Lee, “U.S. Agreed to North Korea Peace Talks before Latest Nuclear Test,” Wall Street Journal, February 21, 2016)


1/4/16:
The United States said it will judge North Korea “by its actions, not its words” after Kim Jong-un, pledged efforts to improve inter-Korean ties in his New Year’s message. Kim that the North will “make aggressive efforts to hold talks and improve relations” with South Korea, saying the country is willing to have talks in an open-minded manner with anyone who wants peace and unification. “As we have long said, we support improved inter-Korean relations. However, North Korea will be judged by its actions, not its words,” said Ory Abramowicz, a spokesperson for the State Department’s Bureau of East Asian and Pacific Affairs. “We continue to call on North Korea to refrain from actions that raise tensions in the region and focus instead on taking concrete steps toward fulfilling its international commitments and obligations,” the official said.


1/5/16:
North Korea’s military carried out a successful ejection test of a new submarine-launched ballistic missile recently, an indication that an earlier test failure has not derailed the underwater missile program, U.S. defense officials said. The test of the submarine-launched missile, or SLBM, which the Pentagon has called the KN-11, from a submerged submarine on December 21 took place near the port city of Sinpo, where the capability is being developed. The facility is located along the North Korean coast of the Sea of Japan. The test followed a November 28 ejection tube launch failure that damaged North Korea’s first missile submarine, which officials identified as the Gorae, Korean for whale. No additional details of the test could be learned, including whether the missile’s engine ignited after the ejection or whether the missile took flight. North Korean state-run media did not publicize the latest test. In May, North Korea announced that its developmental SLBM was flight tested from what analysts believe was an underwater test platform. One official said that based on the latest successful ejection test, North Korea could be as little as a year away from deploying a submarine armed with a nuclear-tipped missile. Other analysts remain skeptical that the North Koreans can master the technology for submarine missile firings. At the Pentagon, spokesman Cmdr. Bill Urban had no comment. “We are not going to be able to provide any information regarding matters of intelligence,” he said. But military analysts said the successful test is a significant step forward in the difficult technical challenge of firing a missile from a submerged submarine. North Korea is building up its missile forces in an effort to develop a nuclear strike capability. Its current force of strategic missiles includes long-range Taepodong missiles that are vulnerable to preemptive strike because of the time it takes to prepare the missiles for launch. To develop a more survivable missile force, North Korea has a small number of KN-08 road-mobile ICBMs and has also been developing the KN-11. The SLBM program was first disclosed by the Washington Free Beacon in August 2014. North Korea is believed by U.S. officials to have obtained the technology for a small warhead capable of being carried by missile in the late 1990s or early 2000s from the covert Pakistani nuclear supply network led by A.Q. Khan. David Maxwell, a retired Army colonel and expert on North Korea at Georgetown University, said a North Korean missile submarine could be a significant challenge to the United States and its allies. “If they can successfully field an operational SLBM in a capable submarine that can evade advanced anti-submarine measures, it could be a game changer as it could give them a possible second strike capability in a nuclear exchange,” Maxwell said. Maxwell said he suspects the North Koreans remain “some ways off” from fielding a missile submarine and the current forces of submarines are not advanced and thus could be tracked. “If we were to determine that they had the capability, we would focus our anti-submarine efforts on perhaps one or two submarines that they might be able to deploy,” he added. Maxwell noted that North Korea has “surprised us before” in developing arms and missiles. “What I think is most important is that their pursuit of an SLBM capability is another indicator that they believe their nuclear program is key to regime survival, and that they have absolutely no intention whatsoever of ever giving up their nuclear program,” Maxwell said. Bruce Bechtol, a former Defense Intelligence Agency expert on North Korea, said the North Korean missile thought to be used in the test is a variant of an SS-N-6 SLBM obtained covertly from Russia. Bechtol, a professor at Angelo State University, said North Korea, with one of the largest missile arsenals and production capabilities in Asia, appears to have been able to reverse engineer an SLBM from one SS-N-6, just as Pyongyang was able to develop an array of missiles after obtaining a Russian short-range Scud decades ago. “North Korea has moved more quickly than most analysts would have anticipated on the SLBM program,” Bechtol said. “Not only do they now have a missile that can successfully be fired using the technically challenging procedure of sub-surface launching… but now it appears they are actually able to do this from a submarine—as evidenced by the most recent test,” he added. When operational, the submarine and missile capability will provide Pyongyang with a new strike option that could be potentially lethal to the United States and its allies. Iran is believed to have acquired North Korea’s Musudan missile, and reportedly uses technology from the SS-N-6 in the Safir rocket, he said. The origin of the Gorae missile submarine is not known. It is believed to be based on either a Soviet design Golf II-class submarine, or reverse-engineered from Golf II submarines obtained by North Korea in the 1990s. The submarines are designed with launch tubes in the vessel’s sail and are believed to be capable of launching two missiles. Commercial satellite photographs have identified the submarine and a test platform at the coastal facility at Sinpo. Rick Fisher, a military affairs analyst with the International Assessment and Strategy Center, said the latest test indicates the North Koreans are making progress in the SLBM program. “With an operational SLBM, North Korea will have more options for nuclear coercion against South Korea, Japan, and the United States, as well as being able to offer a new weapon of mass destruction for export,” Fisher said, noting Iran would likely be among the first customers of an SLBM design. North Korean leader Kim Jong Un made no mention of the new submarine missile program in his New Year’s day speech. Kim warned that the Korean Peninsula is becoming “the world’s biggest flashpoint and origin of nuclear war today” because of what he said were South Korean and U.S. nuclear war exercises. Meanwhile, North Korea may be preparing to conduct an underground test of a thermonuclear weapon, according to a South Korean military report. “We can’t discount the possibility that the North’s excavation of a new tunnel at its Punggye-ri test site could be designed for thermonuclear weapons tests,” said the Chemical, Biological, and Radiological Defense Command, a Defense Ministry group, in a report made public Sunday. “Considering its research of nuclear technology, its history of underground and projectile tests, and elapsed time since its nuclear development, North Korea has the foundation for thermonuclear weapons,” the report said, according to Yonhap. Thermonuclear bombs have more explosive power than early-generation nuclear arms. The weapons use the energy from a primary nuclear fission reaction to compress and ignite a secondary nuclear fusion reaction with greater blast yield. North Korea’s leader Kim Jong Un has announced that it is capable of building hydrogen bombs, though the South Korean report contested this assertion. “The North could detonate its boosted fission weapon, but we don’t believe it is yet capable of directly testing hydrogen bombs,” the command report stated. North Korea carried out three nuclear tests in 2006, 2009, and 2013 at the Punggye-ri test facility in the northeastern part of the country. A South Korean Defense Ministry-affiliated think tank warned in a report made public last week that North Korea is pushing ahead with additional nuclear tests. “As threats to conduct nuclear and missile tests themselves have considerable impact on the regional balance of power, the North is expected to remain ready and seek appropriate timing for the tests while maintaining ambiguity about its ultimate intentions,” Institute for Defense Analyses stated in the report made public January 3. Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump on January 3 warned that North Korea poses a nuclear threat. “Nuclear is a major problem,” Trump said on Face the Nation. “And we have major problems, because you have other people that would be very fast on that. You look at North Korea, you look at some of these countries, I don’t think they would hesitate to use it if they really had it in a proper manner.” (Bill Gertz, “North Korea Conducts Successful Submarine Missile Test,” Washington Free Beacon, January 5, 2016) Bermudez: “Reports of a North Korean “ejection” test of the Bukkeukseong-1 (Polaris-1, KN-11) submarine-launched ballistic missile (SLBM) on December 21, 2015, appear to be supported by new commercial satellite imagery of the Sinpo South Shipyard. This imagery also indicates that despite reports of a failed test in late November 2015 North Korea is continuing to actively pursue its SLBM development program. Specifically: Activity at the secure submarine area may be an indicator supporting reports of a test two days earlier since it is similar to the level of activity that has been previously seen at the SINPO-class submarine prior to the May 2015 test of the Bukkeukseong-1. At the Sinpo South Test Stand, the structure used to support a rocket engine, missile or launch tube, usually present either immediately prior to or shortly after a test is conducted, is in place, suggesting that such a test has been conducted recently or will be conducted soon. Imagery shows the SINPO-class submarine docked at the secure boat basin with netting concealing ongoing work. While the nature of the work remains unclear, it seems that although the boat may have been damaged during a recent test as some reports have speculated, it remains seaworthy. The refurbishment and construction program at the Sinpo South construction halls, fabrication buildings and machine shops that will allow building new submarines much larger than the SINPO-class is nearing completion. North Korea’s development of a SLBM and associated ballistic missile submarine has the potential to present a significant threat in the future. However, the development of an operational system will be an expensive, time-consuming endeavor with no guarantee of success. On November 29, 2015 South Korean government sources reported that North Korea had conducted a failed test of the Bukkeukseong-1 (Polaris-1, KN-11) submarine-launched ballistic missile (SLBM) the previous day. This test was conducted from the North’s sole SINPO-class experimental ballistic missile submarine (SSBA) in the waters of the East Sea northeast of Wonsan. This follows an earlier test during May 2015 that Pyongyang claimed as a great success but was reported by South Korean intelligence sources as a simple ejection test and not a full capabilities operational test. The November test has been assessed as a failure because no missile flight was tracked on radar and debris—sometimes reported as “fragments of a safety cover”—was observed floating on the surface of the water following the test. It has also been suggested that the Bukkeukseong-1 either never left the launch tube or that it was successfully ejected but the main engine failed to fire. There has also been speculation that the submarine was damaged during the test. While some assess this failure as a significant setback for the SLBM program, it should more accurately be viewed as a normal part of a development program that had likely been anticipated as a possibility by North Korea’s development team. Indeed, the reports of a subsequent December 21st ejection test suggest that North Korean designers, engineers and technicians have probably learned from the previous test failure and actively continuing development of the Bukkeukseong-1, launch system and submarine.” (Joseph Bermudez Jr., “North Korea’s Ballistic Missile Submarine Program: Full Steam Ahead,” 38North, January 5, 2016) The DPRK released footage on 8 January from a purportedly successful KN-11 SLBM test. There have been press reports that the US intelligence community detected a failed ejection test in November, followed by a successful ejection test in December. “No additional details of the test could be learned,” Bill Gertz wrote, “including whether the missile’s engine ignited after the ejection or whether the missile took flight.” Based on the footage though, we have a pretty good guess. “It went kablooie,” as Jeffrey Lewis says. Along with several of my colleagues at the Middlebury Institute of International Studies at Monterey (MIIS)–Melissa Hanham, Bo Kim, Jeffrey Lewis, and Dave Schmerler–I created a video analysis, embedded below. Although the KN-11 appears to eject successfully, which is an improvement over November, we think that a catastrophic failure occurred at ignition. The DPRK has manipulated the footage in an attempt to obscure this result, but one clip plays for two frames too long. The rocket appears to explode. Compared to Soviet-era test footage of an R-27 launch–the KN-11 is based on the R-27–the failure seems clear. Dave geolocated the test to approximately 7 km west of the Sinpo Shipyard using the mountains along the coast. Sinpo is the location where the SLBM program is based, hosting a launch stand, a barge for underwater launches and a submarine outfitted with launch tubes. Our best guess is that this footage is from December, based on the report that the KN-11 successfully ejected. (Catherine Dill, “Video Analysis of DPRK SLBM Footage,” Arms Control Wonk, January 12, 2016)


1/6/16:
DPRK government statement: “There took place a world startling event to be specially recorded in the national history spanning 5 000 years in the exciting period when all service personnel and people of the DPRK are making a giant stride, performing eye-catching miracles and exploits day by day after turning out as one in the all-out charge to bring earlier the final victory of the revolutionary cause of Juche, true to the militant appeal of the Workers’ Party of Korea (WPK). The first H-bomb test was successfully conducted in Juche Korea at 10:00 on Wednesday, Juche 105 (2016), pursuant to the strategic determination of the WPK. Through the test conducted with indigenous wisdom, technology and efforts the DPRK fully proved that the technological specifications of the newly developed H-bomb for the purpose of test were accurate and scientifically verified the power of smaller H-bomb. It was confirmed that the H-bomb test conducted in a safe and perfect manner had no adverse impact on the ecological environment. The test means a higher stage of the DPRK’s development of nuclear force. By succeeding in the H-bomb test in the most perfect manner to be specially recorded in history the DPRK proudly joined the advanced ranks of nuclear weapons states possessed of even H-bomb and the Korean people came to demonstrate the spirit of the dignified nation equipped with the most powerful nuclear deterrent. This test is a measure for self-defense the DPRK has taken to firmly protect the sovereignty of the country and the vital right of the nation from the ever-growing nuclear threat and blackmail by the U.S.-led hostile forces and to reliably safeguard the peace on the Korean Peninsula and regional security. Since the appearance of the word hostility in the world there has been no precedent of such deep-rooted, harsh and persistent policy as the hostile policy the U.S. has pursued towards the DPRK. The U.S. is a gang of cruel robbers which has worked hard to bring even a nuclear disaster to the DPRK, not content with having imposed the thrice-cursed and unheard-of political isolation, economic blockade and military pressure on it for the mere reason that it has differing ideology and social system and refuses to yield to the former’s ambition for aggression. The Korean Peninsula and its vicinity are turning into the world’s biggest hotspot where a nuclear war may break out since they have been constantly stormed with all nuclear strike means of the U.S. imperialist aggressor troops, including nuclear carrier strike group and nuclear strategic flying corps. While kicking up all forms of economic sanctions and conspiratorial “human rights” racket against the DPRK with mobilization of the hostile forces, the U.S. has made desperate efforts to block its building of a thriving nation and improvement of the people’s living standard and ‘bring down its social system.’ The DPRK’s access to H-bomb of justice, standing against the U.S., the chieftain of aggression watching for a chance for attack on it with huge nukes of various types, is the legitimate right of a sovereign state for self-defense and a very just step no one can slander. Genuine peace and security cannot be achieved through humiliating solicitation or compromise at the negotiating table. The present-day grim reality clearly proves once again the immutable truth that one’s destiny should be defended by one’s own efforts. Nothing is more foolish than dropping a hunting gun before herds of ferocious wolves. The spectacular success made by the DPRK in the H-bomb test this time is a great deed of history, a historic event of the national significance as it surely guarantees the eternal future of the nation. The DPRK is a genuine peace-loving state which has made all efforts to protect peace on the Korean Peninsula and security in the region from the U.S. vicious nuclear war scenario. The DPRK, a responsible nuclear weapons state, will neither be the first to use nuclear weapons nor transfer relevant means and technology under any circumstances as already declared as long as the hostile forces for aggression do not encroach upon its sovereignty. There can neither be suspended nuclear development nor nuclear dismantlement on the part of the DPRK unless the U.S. has rolled back its vicious hostile policy toward the former. The army and people of the DPRK will steadily escalate its nuclear deterrence of justice both in quality and quantity to reliably guarantee the future of the revolutionary cause of Juche for all ages. Juche Korea will be prosperous forever as it holds fast to the great WPK’s line of simultaneously pushing forward the two fronts.” (KCNA, “DPRK Proves Successful in H-Bomb Test,” January 6, 2016)

KCNA: “Kim Jong Un, first secretary of the Workers’ Party of Korea, first chairman of the National Defense Commission of the DPRK and supreme commander of the Korean People’s Army, issued an order to conduct the first H-bomb test of Juche Korea on December 15, Juche 104 (2015) on behalf of the Workers’ Party of Korea and then signed the final written order on January 3, Juche 105 (2016). The DPRK government issues a statement on the first H-bomb test of Juche Korea conducted under the strategic resolve of the Workers’ Party of Korea.” (KCNA, “WPK Central Committee Issues Order to Conduct First H-Bomb Test,” January 6, 2016)

South Korea’s military played down North Korea’s H-bomb capability, saying its new nuclear test doesn’t appear to be hydrogen-based, given the intensity of the tremor. “It is hard to regard this test as that of a hydrogen bomb,” the military said, requesting anonymity, “Only a few countries including the U.S. and Russia have conducted hydrogen bomb tests and the size of the detonations reached 20 to 50 megatons,” the official said. The latest North Korean test amounts to 6 kilotons and it’s too weak for a hydrogen bomb, he said. The latest test was conducted differently from the previous three tests, the official said, referring to the North’s “organized and intentional efforts to hide the nuclear test plan in thorough secrecy.” The Ministry of National Defense denounced the fresh nuclear detonation test as a “grave threat” to the peace of the Korean Peninsula and the world, vowing efforts to punish the communist country. “In close collaboration under the South Korea-U.S. alliance and with the international community, our military will take necessary measures to make North Korea pay for the nuclear test,” ministry spokesman Kim Min-seok said in a press briefing. In light of the nuclear test, the Defense Ministry also put the military on alert and beefed up surveillance of North Korea. “In addition, South Korea and the U.S. boosted the operations of their surveillance assets in order to better monitor North Korea’s military movements,” Kim noted. In a 10-minute telephone conference with United States Forces Korea (USFK) commander Gen. Curtis Scaparrotti earlier in the day, Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Lee Sun-jin ensured close collaboration with the U.S., according to ministry officials. Defense Minister Han Min-koo will hold another phone conference with his U.S. counterpart Ashton Carter. Earlier in the day, a military expert well versed in the North’s nuclear program called into question the validity of the country’s claim of a hydrogen bomb test. “The scale of the latest nuclear test fell short of that of the third nuclear test (in 2013),” the expert said. The local meteorological administration put the magnitude of the tremor resulting from the test at 4.8, which is less than the 4.9 magnitude registered in the previous nuclear test three years ago. The explosive power of a hydrogen bomb is up to 1,000 times stronger than that of an atomic bomb, and North Korea cannot afford a hydrogen bomb test inside the country, the expert stressed. Even if the tested bomb included hydrogen, it must have been a very low-end bomb, he said. Vice Defense Minister Hwang In-moo echoed the skepticism. “For now, it is unlikely,” the vice minister told reporters after discussing the latest nuclear test with senior members of the ruling Saenuri Party. “It needs to be determined through further data analysis how powerful the explosion was and on what scale it was conducted,” he said. (Yonhap, “S. Korean Military: N. Korea’s Blast Doesn’t Seem to Be from H. Bomb,” January 6, 2016)

North Korea declared that it had detonated its first hydrogen bomb. The assertion, if true, would dramatically escalate the nuclear challenge from one of the world’s most isolated and dangerous states. North Korea has made repeated claims about its nuclear capabilities that outside analysts have greeted with skepticism. “This is the self-defensive measure we have to take to defend our right to live in the face of the nuclear threats and blackmail by the United States and to guarantee the security of the Korean Peninsula,” a female North Korean announcer said, reading the statement on Central Television, the state-run network. The North’s announcement came about an hour after detection devices around the world had picked up a 5.1 seismic event along the country’s northeast coast. It may be weeks or longer before detectors sent aloft by the United States and other powers can determine what kind of test was conducted. Ned Price, a spokesman for the White House National Security Council, said in a statement that American officials “cannot confirm these claims at this time.” But he said the White House expected “North Korea to abide by its international obligations and commitments.” The tremors occurred at or near the Punggye-ri nuclear test site, where three previous tests have been conducted over the past nine years. In recent weeks, the North’s aggressive young leader, Kim Jong-un, has boasted that the country has finally developed the technology to build a thermonuclear weapon — far more powerful than the low-yield devices tested first in 2006, then in different configurations months after President Obama took office in 2009 and again in 2013. The North Korean announcement said the test had been personally ordered by Kim, only three days after he signed an order on January 3 for North Korean engineers to press ahead with the attempt. Outside analysts took the claim as the latest of several hard-to-verify assertions that the isolated country has made about its nuclear capabilities. But some also said that although North Korea did not yet have H-bomb capability, it might be developing and preparing to test a boosted fission bomb, more powerful than a traditional nuclear weapon. Weapon designers can easily boost the destructive power of an atom bomb by putting at its core a small amount of tritium, a radioactive form of hydrogen. Lee Sang-cheol, the top nonproliferation official at the South Korean Defense Ministry, told a forum in Seoul last month that although Kim’s hydrogen bomb boasts might be propaganda for his domestic audience, there was a “high likelihood” that North Korea might have been developing such a boosted fission weapon. And according to a paper obtained by Yonhap last week, the Chemical, Biological and Radiological Command of the South Korean military “did not rule out the possibility” of a boosted fission bomb test by the North, although it added it “does not believe it is yet capable of directly testing hydrogen bombs.” The North has refused to enter the kind of negotiations that Iran did. [?] Unlike Iran, which denies it has interest in nuclear weapons, the North has forged ahead with tests and told the West and China it would never give them up. Obama, determined not to give the country new concessions, has neither acknowledged that North Korea is now a nuclear power nor negotiated with it. The White House has said that it would only restart talks with the North if the goal — agreed to by all parties — was a “denuclearized Korean Peninsula.” China has also failed in its efforts to rein in Kim. He has never been invited to Beijing since his father’s death, and Chinese officials are fairly open in their expressions of contempt for him. But they have not abandoned him, or cut off the aid that keeps the country afloat. With this test three of the North’s four explosions will have occurred during Obama’s time in office. Combined with the North’s gradually increasing missile technology, its nuclear program poses a growing threat to the region — though it is still not clear the North knows how to mount a nuclear weapon on one of its missiles. The test is bound to figure in the American presidential campaign, where several candidates have already cited the North’s nuclear experimentation as evidence of American weakness — though they have not prescribed alternative strategies for choking off the program. The United States did not develop its first thermonuclear weapons — commonly known as hydrogen bombs — until 1952, seven years after the first and only use of nuclear weapons in wartime, the weapons dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Russia, China and other powers soon followed suit. (David E. Sanger and Choe Sang-hun, “North Korea Says It Detonated Hydrogen Bomb for First Time,” New York Times, January 6, 2015, p. A-1) World leaders sternly criticized North Korea for carrying out a fourth nuclear test, an explosion that Pyongyang claimed was a much more powerful hydrogen bomb test. The United Nations Security Council is set to hold an emergency meeting in New York to discuss the international response to the test, which North Korea called an “H-bomb of justice” that it needed for defense against the United States, labelling the U.S. “the chieftain of aggression.” North Korea’s three previous nuclear tests have been met with international condemnation, including resolutions from the U.N. Security Council, but have done nothing to deter Pyongyang. Still, in Seoul, South Korean President Park Geun-hye said North Korea would pay the price for the test, which she called a “grave provocation.” “Now, the government should closely cooperate with the international community to make sure that North Korea pays the corresponding price for the nuclear test,” Park said in a national security council meeting, according to Yonhap. In Tokyo, Japanese Prime Minister Abe Shinzo had a similar message. “This nuclear test by North Korea is a major threat to our country’s security, and I absolutely cannot accept it,” he told reporters. “Also, it is clearly a violation of United Nations Security Council resolutions so . . . we will take strong measures, including steps within the U.N. Security Council.” The United States said it was monitoring the situation. “While we cannot confirm these claims at this time, we condemn any violation of UN Security Council Resolutions and again call on North Korea to abide by its international obligations and commitments,” said John Kirby, the State Department spokesman. “We have consistently made clear that we will not accept it as a nuclear state. We will continue to protect and defend our allies in the region, including [South] Korea, and will respond appropriately to any and all North Korean provocations.” But the severity of any response will depend on the level of anger in China and Russia, both veto-wielding permanent members of the Security Council and both the closest thing North Korea has to friends. After the nuclear test in 2013, the first of Kim Jong Un’s tenure, China supported expanded sanctions against North Korea, although it’s not clear how strictly Beijing has enforced the restrictions on its neighbor. Still, China also condemned the test. “Today the DPRK ignored the general objection from the international community and conducted a nuclear test once again. As to this matter, China strongly opposes,” Hua Chunying, a Chinese foreign ministry spokeswoman told reporters in Beijing. “China will resolutely promote the goal of denuclearization on the peninsula, and stick to solving the peninsula nuclear issues through the six-party talk framework,” she said, referring to long-defunct multilateral talks aimed at convincing North Korea to give up its nuclear ambitions. Russia, which declared 2015 a “year of friendship” with North Korea, also condemned the detonation. “If in fact the test is confirmed, it would be a new step in the development of Pyongyang’s nuclear weapons, a flagrant violation of international law and the existing U.N. Security Council resolutions,” said Russian Foreign Ministry Spokeswoman Maria Zakharova in a statement. “Such actions are fraught with an aggravation of the situation on the Korean peninsula, which is already characterized by a very high potential for military-political confrontation.” She said that Russia wanted to start six-party talks with North Korea as soon as possible. Jeffrey Lewis, a nuclear expert at the Middlebury Institute of International Studies at Monterey, Calif, said that Wednesday’s explosion looked very similar to past tests and was not enormous, suggesting it was not a hydrogen bomb. South Korean lawmakers told local reporters that the explosion had a yield of about 6 kilotons — making it about the same size as North Korea’s 2013 atomic test. Either way, Pyongyang’s provocative action will present a new challenge to the outside world, which has struggled to find ways to bring about an end to North Korea’s nuclear defiance. “North Korea’s fourth test — in the context of repeated statements by U.S., Chinese, and South Korean leaders — throws down the gauntlet to the international community to go beyond paper resolutions and find a way to impose real costs on North Korea for pursuing this course of action,” said Scott Snyder, a Korea expert at the Council on Foreign Relations. (Anna Fifield, “North Korea’s Claims It Tested a Hydrogen Bomb Draw Skepticism, Condemnations,” Washington Post, January 6, 2016) South Korea put its military on alert as it vows to forge a united stance with the international community to punish North Korea for going ahead with a fourth nuclear test in defiance of international warnings. North Korea claimed earlier in the day that it has succeeded in conducting a hydrogen bomb test, a provocative move that could prompt the U.N. Security Council to tighten its sanctions on the communist country. “Now, the government should closely cooperate with the international community to make sure that North Korea pays the corresponding price for the nuclear test” South Korea’s President Park Geun-hye said in a National Security Council meeting at Cheong Wa Dae. Park said it’s important to induce the international community to impose strong sanctions on North Korea. South Korea also issued a statement pledging to take all necessary measures against North Korea. Foreign Minister Yun Byung-se met with the U.S. ambassador to Seoul and the commander of the U.S. military in South Korea to discuss North Korea’s claims of a successful hydrogen bomb test. In New York, the U.N. Security Council reportedly plans to hold an emergency session to explore ways to further tighten sanctions on North Korea. In Washington, the White House said that it cannot confirm North Korea’s claims of a successful hydrogen bomb test, but condemns any violation of U.N. resolutions and urged North Korea to abide by its international obligations and commitments. Park called on the military to maintain readiness in cooperation with U.S. troops in South Korea as she warned of a stern retaliation if North Korea stages a provocation against South Korea. “Currently, our military is strengthening our vigilance and surveillance posture against North Korea,” the Defense Ministry said in a brief note to the media. Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Lee Sun-jin spoke with Gen. Curtis Scaparrotti, commander of the U.S. military in South Korea, over the phone and ensured close collaboration with the U.S., the Defense Ministry said, without elaborating. About 28,500 U.S. troops are stationed in South Korea to deter any possible North Korean aggression. (Yonhap, “S. Korea to Work with Partners to Punish N. Korea for H-Bomb Test,” January 6, 2016) China’s foreign ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying told reporters that the Chinese ministry will summon North Korea’s ambassador to China, Ji Jae-ryong, to lodge a protest against the test of a hydrogen bomb that would mark the North’s fourth nuclear test. However, Hua indicated that China has yet to confirm whether the North’s claimed test of a hydrogen bomb is true or not, saying Beijing will “assess” the test. North Korea “carried out a nuclear test. The Chinese government firmly opposes this,” Hua told a regular press briefing. “We strongly urge the North Korean side to remain committed to its commitment of denuclearization and stop taking any actions that will make the situation worse,” Hua said. She said her ministry “will summon the North Korean ambassador to lodge a protest” against the nuclear test. Hua also said China did not receive prior notice from North Korea about the latest nuclear test. China is a key ally of North Korea, but it has expressed public displeasure over the North’s nuclear ambition. “China is steadfast in its position that the Korean Peninsula should be denuclearized and nuclear proliferation be prevented to maintain peace and stability in Northeast Asia,” Hua said. In a commentary, China’s state-run Xinhua news agency said the North’s claimed test of a hydrogen bomb is “highly regrettable.” The commentary condemned the North’s latest nuclear test as a “breach of U.N. resolutions and a blow to the Korean Peninsula denuclearization process.” “The nuclear test, the fourth of its kind conducted by Pyongyang, has pushed further away any viable solution of the Korean Peninsula predicament and thrust more uncertainty into regional stability,” the commentary said. (Yonhap, “China ‘Firmly Opposes’ N. Korea’s Claimed H-Bomb Test,” January 6, 2016) Japan slammed North Korea after it apparently conducted another nuclear test, its fourth, which involved what Pyongyang described as a powerful hydrogen bomb. Prime Minister Abe Shinzo denounced the action as “a grave threat to the safety of our country.” There were stern responses from Seoul and Washington, and China, North Korea’s sole major ally, said it “firmly” opposes the blast. Japanese officials said Wednesday they were trying to confirm whether the device was indeed a hydrogen bomb. Abe called the test “absolutely intolerable.” “This is a clear violation of the past resolutions of the United Nations Security Council, and a grave challenge against the international efforts to prevent nuclear proliferation,” Abe said. Japan will take “decisive actions” in coordination with the United States, South Korea, China and Russia, he said. On January 1, Japan took up a nonpermanent seat on the United Nations Security Council. It also is currently holding the rotating presidency of the Group of Seven leading economies. Foreign Minister Kishida Fumio said Tokyo will ask the U.N. Security Council to convene an urgent meeting and adopt a new resolution on North Korea. Kishida called Pyongyang’s announcement “a provocative action” that violates a number of U.N. Security Council resolutions and represents a “grave challenge” to peace and safety in the region. Later in the day, Kishida met with U.S. Ambassador Caroline Kennedy at the Foreign Ministry in a gesture seen as presenting a united front. “We stand with Japan and our partners” in dealing with North Korea, Kennedy said in comments heard by reporters as the meeting began. Analysts say if the claim is true, it represents a new balance in the region, as North Korea may now be more of a threat to neighbors such as Japan. It would also mean Pyongyang possesses such advanced technology that even Beijing — its main ally — cannot now rein in its nuclear advances, said Takesada Hideshi, a professor at Takushoku University and an expert on North Korea. “Technologically speaking, it is possible the North has succeeded in developing a hydrogen bomb, as it has claimed,” Takesada said, noting that the assertion is still unverified. Pyongyang has been trying for years to diversify its nuclear arsenal and the means of delivering warheads, Takesada said. It is thought to possess both plutonium- and uranium-based atomic bombs, and is known to have both mid- and long-range ballistic missiles. Furthermore, he noted recent reports of attempts to develop a submarine-launched rocket. This means it is logical that the North should try to develop a far more powerful hydrogen bomb, the production of which is more difficult to detect and monitor from overseas than regular atomic bombs, Takesada said. The implications for Japan would be “enormous,” he said. A high-ranking Japanese official, speaking on condition of anonymity, echoed Takesada’s concerns. “It is Japan that will be exposed to the biggest threat if the North develops a (new) nuclear weapon,” the official said. The official said North Korea is now more unpredictable than ever, as it is more isolated than in the past and both Beijing and Moscow wield less clout in Pyongyang. “The North seems to be highly unpredictable now. That’s scary,” the official said. Meanwhile, today’s development is likely to stall talks over Japanese citizens who were abducted by North Korean agents in the 1970s and 80s and are believed to be living there. Japan has long tried to persuade Pyongyang to return them with the offer of potential economic assistance. Pyongyang has said the individuals are either dead or never entered the country. The nuclear test will make it almost impossible for Tokyo to resume talks, the official said. “Japan won’t ease its actions against the North” because of the abduction issue, the official said. “Now it’s become difficult to have talks with the North.” (Yoshida Reiji and Aoki Mizuho, “Japan Slams North Korean ‘H-Bomb’ Test,” Japan Times, January 6, 2016) One government official involved in the assessment of the test last week told JoongAng Ilbo that the government thinks Pyongyang carried out a failed hydrogen test after reviewing various scientific data and evidence. “We have reviewed a wide range of scientific data such as the strength of the seismic event and sound wave and the detonation location before coming up with the assessment [that it was a failed H-bomb test],” said the official. (Jeong Yong-soo and Kang Jin-kyu, “North Tested Its Nuclear Device Deep in Ground,” JoongAng Ilbo, January 13, 2015) The seismic data from the Jan. 6 underground bomb test, which produced a 5.1-magnitude quake, indicates that the yield was about 6 kilotons (possibly 10), in line with a conventional fission device, not a thermonuclear bomb, which can have a yield between 15,000 and 50,000 kilotons. Director of National Intelligence James Clapper echoed what most other experts have said: “It was much more modest than they claimed,” he said. “It’s hard to say what they are trying.” Some have argued that a so-called boosted bomb would represent a significant increase in North Korean capability. In a boosted bomb, fissile material such as plutonium (of which North Korea has a small stockpile) or highly enriched uranium is put into a fissile chain reaction. The reaction fuses deuterium and tritium, two hydrogen isotopes, that have been thrust into the bomb’s core. “While the fusion reaction does somewhat increase the explosive yield, the main purpose of this reaction is to release lots of neutrons that would then cause many additional fission reactions,” Charles D. Ferguson, the president of the Federation of American Scientists, wrote in January. Bottom line, it’s not exactly a mega-destructive hydrogen bomb, but it does allow you to get a lot bigger explosion out of much less fissile material. That means you can make smaller bombs that can fly farther atop a given missile. “A boosted fission bomb alone…would mean that North Korea is well on its way to making nuclear bombs that are small enough and lightweight enough to fit on ballistic missiles,” wrote Ferguson. “In the case where North Korea does not need to produce a much bigger explosive yield per bomb, but is content with low to moderate yields, it can make much more efficient use of its available fissile material…and have much lower weight bombs,” Ferguson wrote. He said North Korea probably has enough fissile material to make as many as “a few dozen” bombs. U.S. capabilities for detecting or analyzing different tests are limited. Besides seismic tests, the Air Force Technical Applications Center, or AFTAC, at Patrick Air Force Base, Florida, can probe the atmosphere for different isotopes with sensors aboard a Boeing WC-135 Constant Phoenix plane. The presence of tritium would be a more conclusive evidence of a boosted bomb blast. Clapper’s response suggests that AFTAC has yet to detect any telltale tritium. Other experts were more confident that North Korea had tested a boosted bomb. “Given Kim Jong-un’s desire to claim North Korea had mastered H-bomb technology, North Korea likely did test a boosted weapon in January,” Bruce Bennett, a senior defense analyst with the RAND Corporation, told Defense One. “According to the web site 38 North, the fourth nuclear test was buried about twice as deep as the third nuclear test, suggesting that North Korea was seeking a 50 kiloton or so weapon yield. It got 10 kilotons. From just measuring the weapon yield, we cannot tell whether any of this explosion was due to fusion—the ‘H-bomb’ component of the explosion. But if North Korea had gotten 50 kilotons, it would almost certainly be the case that fusion was a part of the explosion. I think Kim wanted that proof, and likely was very unhappy that he did not get it,” said Bennett. If North Korea developed a boosted bomb, how soon could they upgrade to a full hydrogen bomb? Clapper would not say. “Aspirationally, the current regime in North Korea, which is one guy, is very determined to portray to the world that North Korea is a nuclear power and he wants recognition of that,” the U.S. intelligence chief said. “Despite some of the failure that they’ve recently incurred they will continue to press on to develop nuclear capabilities, which I think, ultimately, aspirationally, would include a hydrogen bomb capability. But I certainly can’t prescribe a timeline,” he said. “if you think about it, the North Koreans have achieved an objective there because they’ve created at least the psychology of deterrence.” “It has taken the big countries 10 years or less to go from first fission test to first significant (beyond boosted) fusion test. On the other hand, the US and Soviet nuclear programs were massively staffed, and the North Korean program is not as well staff or financed,” said Bennett. “I don’t know if it is possible within five years,” Ferguson told Defense One in an email. “It seems reasonably clear that they want such a capability. If they had outside help, they might be able to speed up the development process. Even more advanced states such as India and Pakistan have struggled to develop H-bomb capabilities. There are still some who doubt whether those two countries really have such capability. Recall that the United States, Russia, China, France, and the UK made many tests (in the case of the United States more than 1,000) to develop more advanced nuclear weapons. So, North Korea would not be much different,” he said. (Patrick Tucker, “Intelligence Chief: We Don’t Know If North Korea Has a ‘Boosted Bomb,’” Defense One, April 25, 2016)

Albright: “What could it have tested? On one side, North Korea may be bluffing about this test, meaning it tested a fission implosion device similar to the ones it previously detonated. This possibility should be carefully considered. On the other, another thermonuclear weapon design, also developed by the major nuclear-weapon states, should also be considered, namely a one-stage thermonuclear device. This design is easier to achieve than a two-stage H-bomb and can achieve very high explosive yields. There are many types of such weapons. Several are very complicated, involving plutonium, large amounts of weapon-grade uranium, and thermonuclear materials, and can achieve explosive yields of hundreds of kilotons. However, relatively simple variants exist that can achieve many tens of kilotons. South Africa researched one type of one-stage thermonuclear device during its nuclear weapons program. This design was seen as a straightforward, achievable way to a thermonuclear weapon and the much higher explosive yields these weapons generate. Its design focused on a conceptually simple approach, although achieving it in practice would have proven difficult. It involved a fission weapon with a lithium, deuterium, tritium solid tablet placed at its center. With this method, the yield can be enhanced or boosted many fold. South Africa investigated boosting the yield of its weapons in this manner from about 10-15 kilotons to about 60-100 kilotons. It is unclear if North Korea tested such a device. Its work to date suggests an interest and capability to obtain tritium, the hardest of the three thermonuclear-related elements to obtain. Nonetheless, the yield of a North Korean test of a one-stage thermonuclear device would also be expected to have been larger than reported so far. Also, despite its conceptual simplicity, a one-stage thermonuclear weapon poses several challenges, particularly the development of the solid lithium, deuterium, tritium tablet. One should be skeptical that North Korea has succeeded in any such endeavor with this test. However, even at relatively low yields, North Korea may have tested aspects of such a one-stage design, namely the ignition of the thermonuclear material in a predominately fission nuclear explosion. Moreover, success in developing simple thermonuclear devices is likely a matter of time and a relatively small number of additional tests.”(David Albright, North Korea’s 2016 Nuclear Test, Institute for Science and International Security, January 6, 2016)

In a strongly worded statement Hillary Clinton called for immediate additional sanctions against Pyongyang. “If verified, this is a provocative and dangerous act, and North Korea must have no doubt that we will take whatever steps are necessary to defend ourselves and our treaty allies, South Korea and Japan,” Clinton said. “North Korea’s goal is to blackmail the world into easing the pressure on its rogue regime.” “We can’t give in to or in any way encourage this kind of bullying,” she added. Clinton said the Chinese government “must be more assertive in deterring the North’s irresponsible actions.” If China does not do more to halt “prohibited activities” from transpiring across its borders with North Korea, its firms should face sanctions, she said. In response to the apparent bomb test, Clinton used North Korea’s provocations as an opportunity to highlight what she has argued is the risk of electing an inexperienced commander in chief. “Threats like this are yet another reminder of what’s at stake in this election,” Clinton noted, without addressing any specific candidates by name. “We cannot afford reckless, imprudent publicity stunts that risk war.” “We need a commander in chief with the experience and judgment to deal with a dangerous North Korea on Day One,” she added. Meanwhile, Republican candidates for president have placed the blame for the test squarely on Obama and Clinton. “This underscores the gravity of the threats we are facing right now, and also the sheer folly of the Obama-Clinton foreign policy,” Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tex.) told reporters on Wednesday, calling for a change of course away from the current administration’s foreign policy. Ohio Gov. John Kasich charged that the Obama administration has been “asleep at the switch on North Korea.” (Abby Phillip, “Hillary Clinton Condemns North Korea’s Bomb Test, Calls for Additional Sanctions,” Washington Post, January 6, 2016)

In the days and weeks ahead, nuclear experts will be hunting for airborne radioactive particles that could shed light on North Korea’s assertion that it tested a hydrogen bomb, but drawing an independent conclusion could prove lengthy and difficult. Seismic monitoring stations operated by governments around the world detected an earthquake that the U.S. Geological Survey measured at a magnitude of 5.1. But it is the detection of airborne radioactive particles that will give clues as to the type of device that was set off and whether it was a hydrogen bomb. Following the North’s last nuclear test, in 2013, it was 55 days before radioactive xenon gas was detected at a monitoring station in Japan, located about 1,000 km (600 miles) from the test site, which pointed to a nuclear blast by Pyongyang. “What I would say at this point is that it’s very consistent with what the world saw in 2013, which was a declared nuclear test, largely deemed to be a nuclear test,” Randy Bell, head of the International Data Centre at the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty Organization (CTBTO), told reporters in Vienna. “To go further into detail to try to ascertain some very particular nature, such as whether this indicated nuclear or non-nuclear, or a particular type of nuclear, is not appropriate at this stage. The seismic data alone would not provide that sort of insight,” he said. Proving that the blast was a hydrogen bomb would depend on the presence of the hydrogen isotope tritium, which would set it apart from a fission atomic bomb and which in turn would require the presence of lithium. South Korean intelligence officials and analysts are doubtful that the test was of a full-fledged hydrogen device, which would be expected to produce a much greater yield than the reported 6 kilotons. By comparison, the blast produced by the weapon dropped on Hiroshima in 1945 measured 13 kilotons, according to the CTBTO, the global body set up to monitor a planned ban on nuclear testing. The first U.S. hydrogen bomb was equivalent to 10 megatons, nearly 1,000 times more powerful than the Hiroshima bomb, and the Soviet Union in 1961 set off what is known to be the most powerful bomb in history, with a 50-megaton yield. “If they find lithium, then it’s definitely a hydrogen bomb test, but if it’s only xenon … then you’re not going to know,” a member of South Korea’s parliamentary intelligence committee, Shin Kyung-min, said, quoting from a briefing by the country’s spy agency chief. The U.S. Air Force is likely to fly aircraft to try to detect gases in the air, a South Korean lawmaker said. There can be added detection challenges if the underground blast was completely contained, although that would be rare. (Jack Kim and Francois Murphy, “Verifying North Korea Hydrogen Bomb Claim May Prove Difficult,” Reuters, January 7, 2016)

The United Nations Security Council condemned North Korea for its nuclear test, but there was no evidence yet that the North’s most powerful backer, China, was willing to stiffen sanctions in a way that could push the unpredictable country to the point of collapse or slow its nuclear progress. As the question of how the international community should respond remained unanswered, White House officials, eager to undercut whatever propaganda value the North saw in claiming its first success in detonating a thermonuclear device, said that initial data from its monitoring stations in Asia were “not consistent” with a test of a hydrogen bomb. A two-hour closed session of the Security Council this afternoon ended with a pledge to “begin to work immediately” on a resolution containing additional measures to rein in Pyongyang. It did not specify what those measures could be, and in the past, China and Russia have usually objected to steps that could threaten the North’s survival. The most obvious would be a prohibition on loading or unloading North Korean ships around the world, or on financial transactions with the nation. The White House press secretary, Josh Earnest, did not indicate the basis for the administration’s skepticism of Pyongyang’s claim. But more than a month ago, when Kim Jong-un, the country’s young leader, boasted that he possessed the technology for a hydrogen bomb, American officials said they had a variety of evidence — some technical, some from human sources — to call that claim into question. A South Korean Defense Ministry official said January 7 that the ministry believed that even if the device was a boosted fission bomb, the test was probably a failure. The explosive yield was even smaller than that from the North’s last and third nuclear test, in early 2013, he said. “Even a boosted fission bomb produces a yield bigger than this, so we don’t think this is a successful test of a boosted fission bomb either,” he added. But the true nature of the test may not be revealed until results are back from atmospheric testing, usually conducted by Air Force planes that run along the North Korean coast “sniffing” for byproducts of an explosion. Yet after the test in 2013, such inquiries were inconclusive. “We may never know,” said one intelligence official involved in the testing. “The technology is pretty hit-and-miss.” Gary Samore, Obama’s top nuclear adviser in the president’s first term, said Wednesday that the timing of the test was strange, with North and South Korea discussing restoring some economic ties and the North trying to reach out to the Chinese. Even China used unusually strong language, probably because it also appeared to have been given no warning about the test, which the North claimed — against considerable evidence to the contrary — was its first effort to detonate a hydrogen bomb. The Chinese said they were “strongly against this act,” and their ambassador to the United States met with Susan E. Rice, President Obama’s national security adviser, at the White House. President Obama said nothing in public about the test, in contrast to Bush, who responded to the first North Korean test in 2006 by declaring that the North would be held responsible if its bomb technology were found anywhere else in the world. Advisers said Obama was calculating that Kim was looking to get a rise out of him. “He’s not going to give him the satisfaction,” one aide said. On Wednesday evening, the White House said that Obama had spoken by telephone with President Park Geun-hye of South Korea and Prime Minister Abe Shinzo of Japan, reassuring both of America’s support. Some American officials, declining to speak on the record, speculated that a dust-up last month over the treatment of an all-female band that North Korea sent to Beijing might have so angered Kim that he ordered the test to go ahead. Just before the band was supposed to perform, Kim declared that the North possessed hydrogen bomb technology. The Chinese, with no explanation, downgraded the level of officials scheduled to attend the performance, and the band then headed home without performing. “I know this sounds like a crazy reason to set off a nuclear test,” one American intelligence official said. “But stranger things have provoked North Korean action.” But it is far from clear that all the major players with a stake in what the North does are willing to take the kind of risks, and impose the kind of sanctions, that might prompt Pyongyang to back down or, alternatively, to lash out. Kelsey Davenport, director for nonproliferation policy at the Arms Control Association in Washington, argued that stiffening existing sanctions, while sending a political message, would be insufficient. “Ratcheting up sanctions pressure demonstrates that there is a cost to violating Security Council resolutions,” she said in an email. “However, sanctions alone are not going to change Pyongyang’s behavior. North Korea has complex illicit trafficking networks for evading sanctions, and not all countries in the region are adequately enforcing existing measures.” The one time the United States did clearly get the North’s attention was when it cut off bank accounts in Macau that Kim Jong-il, the father of the current leader, used to finance the lifestyle of the North Korean elite. But eventually, the Bush administration had to lift that sanction, partly under pressure from allies. Japan’s ambassador to the United Nations, Yoshikawa Motohide, told reporters after the Security Council meeting that his government expected the Council to adopt a robust resolution to check North Korea’s nuclear weapons ambitions. The American ambassador, Samantha Power, called for a “tough, comprehensive and credible package of new sanctions.” But the Russian ambassador, Vitaly I. Churkin, would say only that a “proportionate response” was necessary. For Kim, there was some domestic politics in all this. His Workers’ Party is scheduled to hold its first full-fledged congress since 1980 this May. With no big improvements in the lives of his people, he needs something else to show for his four-year rule. “The biggest achievement Kim Jong-un can offer ahead of the party congress is his nuclear program,” said Choi Kang, vice president of the Asan Institute for Policy Studies. “It also means that things don’t look good in the economic sector.” (Somini Sengupta, David E. Sanger, and Choe Sang-Hun, “Security Council Condemns a Test by North Korea,” New York Times, January 7, 2016, p. A1)

South Korea said it will resume anti-Pyongyang broadcasts at noon tomorrow along the heavily fortified border with North Korea in retaliation of Pyongyang’s claimed hydrogen bomb test. Cho Tae-yong, deputy chief of the presidential office of national security, told reporters, “The North’s fourth nuclear test is a grave violation” of the August deal, referring to a breakthrough deal that defused heightened tension sparked by a landmine blast near the inter-Korean border blamed on North Korea. The move could further escalate tensions with North Korea, which had threatened to launch “strong military action” against loudspeakers blaring messages critical of North Korean leader Kim Jong-un. Park held a telephone conversation with U.S. President Barack Obama and they agreed to closely cooperate to ensure that the U.N. Security Council can adopt a resolution for strong sanctions on North Korea over its hydrogen bomb test, Cheong Wa Dae said. The two leaders also shared the view that the international community must make sure that North Korea pays the corresponding price for a nuclear test, the South Korean presidential office said. In Washington, the White House said Obama reaffirmed the “unshakable U.S. commitment” to South Korea’s security, and the two leaders agreed to work together to forge a united and strong international response to North Korea’s latest reckless behavior. “The two leaders condemned the test and agreed that North Korea’s actions constitute yet another violation of its obligations and commitments under international law, including several U.N. Security Council Resolutions,” the White House said in a statement. Park and Obama also shared the need of coordinating a stance with China in dealing with North Korea’s hydrogen bomb test. (Yonhap, “S. Korea to Resume Propaganda Broadcasts along Border with N. Korea,” January 7, 2016)

South Korea is in talks with the United States to deploy U.S. strategic weapons on the Korean peninsula, a South Korean military official said, a day after North Korea said it successfully tested a hydrogen nuclear device. A South Korean military official told Reuters the two countries had discussed the deployment of U.S. strategic assets on the divided Korean peninsula, but declined to give further details. After North Korea last tested a nuclear device, in 2013, Washington sent a pair of nuclear-capable B-2 stealth bombers on a sortie over South Korea in a show of force. At the time, North Korea responded by threatening a nuclear strike on the United States. (Ju-min Park and Se Young Lee, “South Korea Seeks U.S. Strategic Weapons after North’s Nuclear Test,” Reuters, January 7, 2016)

Early in his first term, President Obama conducted some quick triage on how his administration would face a gamut of nuclear challenges: Focus on stopping Iran’s nuclear program before it succeeded in building a weapon, but do not waste a lot of energy trying to roll back a North Korean program that had already built a small arsenal that the desperately poor country had little incentive to give up. It was a pragmatic roll of the dice. While it will be years before the strategy’s long-term wisdom can be assessed, Iran, eager to have economic sanctions lifted, shipped 98 percent of its known stockpile of nuclear fuel to Russia last week, most likely crippling its ability to build a weapon over the next decade. But the North Koreans have a way of acting out when they feel ignored. The detonation that rocked Northeast Asia on Wednesday morning and Pyongyang’s claim to have set off its first hydrogen bomb — a boast there is good reason to treat with skepticism — are a reminder that the North Koreans have been on something of an atomic spending spree while American negotiators were cloistered in Vienna striking deals with the Iranians. But what the Obama administration has advertised as “strategic patience” — not overreacting to every North Korean test and demand for a payoff, while continuing pressure through sanctions until the North agrees to negotiate — may well be judged by administration critics as having paved the way for an arsenal the size of Pakistan’s. “Strategic patience has led to acquiescence,” Robert Litwak of the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, the author of “Outlier States: American Strategies to Change, Contain, or Engage Regimes,” said on Wednesday. “What a contrast to the effort and creativity the administration put into the Iranian case.” It is not as if the administration has been doing nothing. Sydney A. Seiler, the State Department’s coordinator for eliminating the North Korean nuclear program, put together a package of proposals to see if the North would consider resuming negotiations. It was intended to be a lot like the secret diplomacy that led to the two-year formal negotiations with Iran. But it went nowhere, and South Korean officials have warned for a long time that the North’s program has hit what one called a “point of no return”: a phrase the Israelis once used, wrongly, about Iran. Still, even some former Obama administration officials say the administration’s insistence that it would not talk to North Korea unless the North agreed that the ultimate outcome was complete nuclear disarmament was a prescription for diplomatic failure. Stephen W. Bosworth, Obama’s first special envoy for North Korea, who died over the weekend, argued in recent years that an administration willing to talk to Iran, Cuba and Myanmar had little to lose by dealing with the starving, isolated North Koreans. “Whatever risks might be associated with new talks, they are less than those that come with doing nothing,” Bosworth wrote in the New York Times in 2013 with Robert L. Gallucci, the North Korea negotiator in the Clinton administration. “Pyongyang’s nuclear stockpile will continue to expand, the North will continue to perfect its missile delivery systems, the danger of weapons-of-mass-destruction exports will grow, and the threat to U.S. allies will increase.” From Pyongyang’s viewpoint, there is little incentive to give up the nuclear arsenal. The world is not exactly banging on North Korea’s door to do business the way it is with Iran: The North has no oil, no striving middle class and little strategic value in the modern world. Its greatest power is the threat it poses to one of the most prosperous corners of the globe. But many also consider it too dangerous to allow North Korea to fail. The Chinese know that if it ceases to exist, the South Koreans, and their American allies, will be on the Chinese border. The South Koreans know that if a conflict breaks out, the North will lose — but only after Seoul, just 35 miles or so from the North Korean border, is a smoking ruin. So the North Korean strategy is to up the ante and hope the world will acknowledge it as a nuclear weapons power that has to be dealt with. H-Bomb or no H-bomb, nuclear weapons are the country’s insurance policy, and the test was a sign that it has no intention of cashing it in. (David E. Sanger, “North Korea Blast Revives Question: How Do You Contain Pyongyang?” New York Times, January 7, 2016, p. A-8)

In a striking public rebuke of China, Secretary of State John Kerry warned Beijing that its effort to rein in North Korea had been a failure and that something had to change in its handling of the isolated country it has supported for the past six decades. “China had a particular approach that it wanted to make, and we agreed and respected to give them space to be able to implement that,” Kerry said a day after North Korea’s latest nuclear test, after a phone call with his Chinese counterpart, Wang Yi. “Today in my conversation with the Chinese I made it clear: That has not worked, and we cannot continue business as usual.” Two administration officials said the United States was now drafting a proposed resolution for United Nations Security Council approval that would impose sanctions on North Korean trade and finance, including a partial ban on permitting North Korean ships to enter ports around the world, an effort to cut off more of the country’s trade. A second set of sanctions under consideration is a cutoff of North Korean banking relationships, similar to the restrictions placed on Iran in the successful effort to drive it to the negotiation table on its nuclear program. After past North Korean nuclear tests, China, a member of the Security Council, has agreed only to Council resolutions that banned weapons shipments to the North and imposed sanctions on specific companies and individuals linked to the nuclear program. Although administration officials cast the proposed new sanctions as severe, in the past enforcement of such restrictions has been poor. “What we really want to see is better teeth in the enforcement,” one senior American official said, declining to be identified because he was discussing the internal process of drafting the sanctions. During President George W. Bush’s administration, the United States shut down transactions at one particular institution, Banco Delta Asia in Macau, used by the North Korean leadership, including Kim Jong-il, the leader at the time. That caused considerable pain — the bank was used to finance the lifestyles of many in the North Korean elite — but eventually the Bush administration relented and lifted the sanction, in part because of pressure from the government then in place in South Korea. The Treasury Department has identified similar institutions used by Kim’s son, the current leader, Kim Jong-un. The most effective step against North Korea, most experts believe, would be the one that the Chinese most oppose: a restriction or cutoff of oil exports to the North. The country is highly dependent on oil that runs through a small number of pipelines from China. “We just think it would be a nonstarter with the Chinese,” said one American official, who said that it would be counterproductive if the inclusion of an oil ban led the Chinese to veto the entire resolution. China’s fear is that without oil, the North Korean regime could collapse, putting South Korea, and its American ally, on the Chinese border. The United States Pacific Command met to take up other, if largely symbolic steps. One is an overflight of the border between North and South Korea with a nuclear-capable bomber, the B-52 or the B-2. Such flights were sent up after North Korea’s third nuclear test, in 2013. “The North Koreans noticed,” James Miller, the undersecretary of defense for policy during that test, said Thursday. “And the rest of the world saw that they noticed.” But clearly the effect eventually wore off, given the North’s decision to conduct a fourth test. South Korean and American officials said there was also renewed discussion of deploying an advanced missile defense system, called the THAAD for Terminal High-Altitude Area Defense, in South Korea. The United States has been pressing for such a deployment for some time, but the South has resisted, largely because of opposition from China, which is the South’s leading trade partner. Taken together, those steps amount to what one American official called “a big wish list.” And they all reflect the reality of economic interdependence, which makes it hard for the South Koreans, or the United States, to be too confrontational with China. While American officials worked up sanctions possibilities, South Korea resumed the propaganda broadcasts that infuriated the North last summer. The South turned on about 10 batteries of so-called propaganda loudspeakers at the heavily armed border at noon on Friday, the Defense Ministry said. In August, the Koreas appeared on the verge of armed conflict partly because of the broadcasts, which the South used to blare news of the outside world and criticism of the North, as well as bouncy South Korean pop music, into the tightly controlled country. South Korea’s decision to turn on the loudspeakers was made yesterday, when top national security officials met in Seoul to discuss a response to the North’s test. South Korean officials said privately that resuming the propaganda broadcasts was the simplest and quickest way they could think of, for now, to retaliate. They insisted on anonymity while agreeing to discuss their thinking on a delicate security issue. Like the United States, the South has few options for punishing the North for its nuclear ambitions, which it has continued to pursue despite decades of international sanctions and resolutions from the United Nations Security Council. North Korea did not immediately respond to the resumption of the broadcasts. While loudspeakers may seem like a trivial response to a nuclear test, there is little doubt that the broadcasts enrage the North Korean leadership, which rigorously controls what information its citizens receive and sees the propaganda as an attempt to undermine its authority. The Cold War-era tactic had gone unused by the South for 11 years until last summer, after two South Korean border guards were maimed by land mines, which the South accused the North of planting. North Korea then threatened to attack the loudspeakers, which it said sullied the “dignity of our supreme leadership,” and put its military on what it called a “semi-war” footing, moving more troops to the border. The crisis was defused after top officials from both Koreas met in talks at the border on August 25. North Korea expressed “regret” over the wounding of the border guards, and South Korea agreed to stop the broadcasts unless an “abnormal situation” developed. (David E. Sanger and Choe Sang-hun, “U.S. Prods China on North Korea, Saying Soft Approach Has Failed,” New York Times, January 8, 2016, p. A-6)

Siegfried Hecker: “Do you believe that North Korea actually detonated a hydrogen bomb in its latest nuclear test? I don’t believe it was a real hydrogen bomb, but my greatest concern is not so much whether or not they actually tested a hydrogen bomb, but rather that they tested at all. Since this test worked, they will have achieved greater sophistication in their bomb design — that is the most worrisome aspect. This is their fourth test — with each test they can learn a lot. …White House officials say that initial data from nearby monitoring stations are not consistent with a hydrogen bomb test. How will we know for sure whether it was a hydrogen bomb or not? The short answer is that we may never know. The telltale signs of a hydrogen bomb are very difficult to pick up in a deeply buried test. Typically hydrogen bombs have greater explosive power or yield. This test is currently believed to have resulted in a seismic tremor of 5.1 on the Richter earthquake scale. That would make it roughly equivalent to the third nuclear test in February 2013. At that time, North Korea claimed it tested a miniaturized atomic bomb—there was no mention of a hydrogen bomb. My estimate of the yield for the 2013 test is roughly 7 to 16 kilotons—which is in the range of the 13-kiloton Hiroshima blast. As far as destructiveness, a Hiroshima-scale explosion is bad enough. Detonated in Manhattan, it may kill as many as a quarter million people. The power of the 2013 and the current explosion is more consistent with fission bombs than hydrogen bombs. Can you rule out the possibility that it was a hydrogen bomb? I find it highly unlikely that the North tested a real hydrogen fusion bomb, but we know so little about North Korea’s nuclear weapons design and test results that we cannot completely rule it out. A modern hydrogen bomb is a two-stage device that uses a fission bomb to drive the second stage fusion device. A two-stage device is very difficult to design and construct, and is likely still beyond the reach of North Korea today. However, by comparison, China’s early nuclear weapon program progressed rapidly. It tested its first fission bomb in 1964 and less than three years later demonstrated a hydrogen bomb—and that was 50 years ago. North Korea has now been in the nuclear testing business for almost 10 years, so we can’t rule anything out for certain. If it wasn’t a hydrogen bomb, what kind of bomb might it have been? What may be more likely than a two-stage hydrogen bomb is that they took an intermediate step that utilizes hydrogen fuel (actually hydrogen isotopes) to boost the explosive yield of the fission bomb, a sort of turbocharging. Such a device has a fusion or “hydrogen” component, but is not a real hydrogen bomb. It allows miniaturization—that is making the bomb smaller and lighter. Moreover, it would be the first step toward eventually mastering a two-stage hydrogen bomb. The most important aspect then is to miniaturize, whether it is a fission bomb, a boosted fission bomb, or a hydrogen bomb. The Nagasaki bomb weighed 5,000 kilograms. It was delivered in a specially equipped B-29 bomber. North Korea wants to demonstrate it has a deterrent. To do so, it needs to be able to credibly threaten the U.S. mainland or our overseas assets. For that, you have to make the bomb (more correctly, the warhead) small enough to mount on a missile. The smaller and lighter, the greater the reach. At this point, what makes their nuclear arsenal more dangerous is not so much explosive power of the bomb, but its size, weight and the ability to deliver it with missiles. How close is North Korea to being able to credibly threaten a nuclear strike against the mainland United States? North Korea is still a long way off from being able to strike the US mainland. It has only had one successful space launch. It needs a lot more, but it has a large effort in that direction. Do you think North Korea conducted this test for political or technical reasons? North Korea had very strong technical and military drivers for this test, as well as follow-on tests. The political environment is mostly what has constrained it from testing earlier and more often. However, this test demonstrates that Pyongyang is willing to weather the political storm this test will bring. It has done so for all previous tests. What are your current estimates on the size of North Korea’s stockpile of nuclear weapons and materials? Much like in the area of sophistication of the bomb, we have little information of what North Korea actually possesses. The best we can do is to estimate how much bomb fuel—plutonium and highly enriched uranium—they may have produced and estimate how many bombs they can produce from that stockpile. My best estimate at this time is that they may have enough bomb fuel for 18 bombs, with a capacity to make 6 to 7 more annually. That, combined with the increased sophistication they surely achieved with this test, paints a troublesome picture. How should the United States respond? I am concerned about what we haven’t done to date. Washington has lost many opportunities we have had since North Korea began its nuclear weapon production in earnest in 2003. One thing that’s clear is that doing what we and the rest of the world have done so far—half-hearted diplomacy, ultimatums, and sanctions—have failed, so these are not the answer. I have previously argued that we should focus on three “no’s” for three “yes’s”—that is no more bombs, no better bombs (meaning no testing) and no export—in return for addressing the North’s security concerns, its energy shortage, and its economic woes. This could have worked when I first proposed it 2008 after one of my seven visits to North Korea. It will be more difficult now.” (Steve Fyffe, “Hecker Assesses North Korean Bomb Claims,” Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, January 7, 2016)


1/7/16:
Republican presidential front-runner Donald Trump said that China needs to start getting involved in “the North Korea problem,” amid claims from North Korea that it has conducted a hydrogen bomb test. “You have this madman over there who probably would use it and nobody talks to him other than, of course, Dennis Rodman talked to him. That’s about it,” Trump said on “Fox and Friends,” referring to North Korean leader Kim Jong-un. “But nobody is talking to him whatsoever, and nobody is discussing it with China.” “China has total control, believe me. They say they don’t; they have total control over North Korea,” he said. “Without China, they wouldn’t eat,” he said. “They wouldn’t have food, they wouldn’t have anything. So, China should do it. They say they can’t, they don’t have that power — they’re toying with our politicians who don’t know what they’re doing.” “It’s about time that China now gets involved with the North Korea problem. We got to close it down, because he’s getting too close to doing something,” Trump said. “Right now, he’s probably got the weapons, but he doesn’t have the transportation system. Once he has the transportation system, he’s sick enough to use [it]. So we better get involved.” He also said South Korea is going to have to start “ponying up.” (David Sherfinski, “Donald Trump: About Time That China Gets Involved with the North Korea Problem,” Washington Times, January 6, 2016)


1/8/16:
North Korea is seeking a peace treaty with the United States, China and South Korea to formally end the Korean War and will not stop its nuclear tests until it gets one, a person who relayed that message from North Korea to China told Reuters. The source, who has contacts in the North Korean capital of Pyongyang and correctly predicted the North’s first nuclear test in 2006, said the tests would go on until the North’s demand for a treaty was met. “North Korea will do it to the end until China and the United States want to sign a peace treaty,” said the source, who declined to be identified. “This explosion is mainly for the United States to see. The main objective is to persuade the United States to enter into four-country negotiations to end the war so that there can be everlasting peace on the Korean peninsula,” the source said. The United States and China have both dangled the prospect of better ties, including the lifting of sanctions and eventually a likely peace treaty, if North Korea gives up its nuclear weapons. But North Korea believes the United States will only negotiate if Pyongyang can demonstrate its strength through its weapons. With its demand for a treaty ignored, North Korea has continued to develop its nuclear weapons and a stalemate has ensued. The source said he had relayed the message from North Korea to China’s top leadership immediately after its latest test, urging China to support a push for a treaty. “China should not follow the United States,” the source said, referring to the U.S. demand that North strategic mistake.” The source with contacts in Pyongyang said North Korea was already largely cut off from the world after decades of sanctions, and more would not work. “North Korea is used to sanctions and not afraid,” the source said, adding that the latest test pointed to advances in its weapons. “The (TNT) equivalent of this explosion was not big, pollution was very small. This demonstrates the technological level is high. It is even easier to make it bigger,” the source said. (Benjamin Kang Lim and Ben Blanchard, “North Korea Seeks China Help on Treaty with U.S., Or More Tests — Source,” Reuters, January 8, 2016)

Cha and Gallucci: “During nuclear negotiations in 2005, a North Korean diplomat let slip an unexpectedly candid comment, offering valuable insight into his government’s nuclear policy: “The reason you attacked Afghanistan is because they don’t have nukes. And look at what happened to Libya. That is why we will never give up ours.” North Korea conducted its fourth nuclear test on Wednesday, claiming that it had detonated a hydrogen bomb. The United States government disputes that, but one thing is clear: North Korea’s leaders still believe that nuclear weapons will prevent others from attacking them no matter what they do. This is fanciful. What the world needs is reality. North Korea must recognize the limitations and risks of its nuclear program, and the United States must recognize that an American response is necessary. Many serious dangers come with being a nuclear power, and the North Koreans seem to recognize few of them. One is the temptation to transfer weapons, fissile material or technology to other states or terrorist groups. North Korea has a history of selling its traditional weapons systems. But the government must recognize that selling its nuclear technology could compel the United States to respond in ways that would bring an end to nearly 70 years of Communist rule. There are other ways that the nuclear program makes the government less secure. Over the past several years, North Korea has degraded its conventional military capacity in order to pursue nuclear weapons. Under normal circumstances, a weaker North Korean Army would be welcome news to the rest of the world, but with a budding nuclear state it can lead to rapid escalation in the event of a conflict. This could mean either pre-emptive action by the United States, or, if North Korea ever used nuclear weapons, a massive retaliation. The North also mistakenly believes that its nascent nuclear abilities will deter the United States and South Korea from responding if North Korean forces carry out low-level military actions intended to extort food, fuel or other benefits. It is wrong. South Korea and the United States are unlikely to remain passive in response to future violence like the 2010 sinking of a South Korean naval ship. The Obama administration cannot punt to the next administration the problem of North Korea’s growing stockpiles of fissile material, sophisticated weapons designs and long-range delivery ability. No one should take comfort in skepticism about whether Wednesday’s test was a success. If North Korea’s burgeoning nuclear weapons stockpile leads it to miscalculate American resolve, there will be horrible consequences. And at that point the whole world will wonder why no nation — especially the United States — stopped North Korea before it was too late. A new approach to persuading the North to abandon its nuclear program must focus on asymmetric pressure points. A look at recent history helps to outline such a strategy. In our experience working on North Korea policy, the government in Pyongyang has seemed truly caught off guard only twice: in September 2005 when the Treasury Department’s sanctions led to a freezing of its bank accounts in Macau; and in February 2014 when a United Nations commission called for the Security Council to refer the North’s leadership to the International Criminal Court for a long list of crimes against humanity. The United States and the United Nations should immediately increase sanctions. A new Security Council resolution will most likely emerge soon, providing one opportunity for this. Another comes in the form of the presidential executive order created after the cyberattack on Sony Pictures last year. These should include targeted financial sanctions; travel bans and indictments against officials working on the nuclear program, human rights abusers and cyber criminals; as well as secondary sanctions on anyone doing business with North Korean companies. But sanctions are only one part of the strategy. Many observers believe, credibly, that slave labor bankrolls the nuclear weapons program. The United Nations must also continue to hold individuals in the government directly accountable for crimes against humanity, and all countries, including China and Russia, should be pressured to stop accepting North Korean laborers. Even if China’s government has made clear that it is unhappy with North Korea’s behavior, Beijing won’t abandon its ally anytime soon. But the United States can — and should — push for Beijing to dial back its support. China could instruct Chinese companies to curtail business with North Korea, and the government could reject any calls from North Korea for new economic projects until the government returned to negotiations. China could also agree to not obstruct any Security Council discussions on human rights abuses in the North. Washington must frame cooperation on North Korea as a cornerstone of United States-China relations. North Korea thinks that nuclear weapons make it more secure. That’s wrong. North Korea’s only path away from isolation and insecurity will require negotiation on all issues, including security, human rights and economics. In order to help it understand this, the United States must use the nuclear test Wednesday to force the North back to the table.” (Victor Cha and Robert Gallucci, “Stopping North Korea’s Nuclear Threat,” New York Times, January 8, 2016, p. A-23)


1/9/16:
The young leader of North Korea, Kim Jong-un, has often been dismissed as inexperienced, erratic and even clueless. But with the North’s test of a nuclear bomb this week, he appears to have mastered a strategy that has served his reclusive country well: playing one big power against another. The nuclear test quickly increased tensions between the United States and China. In a strong rebuke on January 14, Secretary of State John Kerry called China’s approach to North Korea a failure, saying that something had to change in its handling of the isolated country it has supported for six decades. On January 15, China suggested that it was the Americans, not the Chinese, who were largely to blame for the North’s nuclear program. The United States also used the North’s test to tighten a trilateral alliance with Japan and South Korea, a relationship that China has long viewed as a check on its power. “This is exactly what North Korea wanted,” said Go Myong-hyun, a research fellow at the Asan Institute for Policy Studies in Seoul. “If its erratic behavior drives South Korea closer to the United States, China will feel more surrounded, and that will give North Korea room for maneuver.” North Korea has often lashed out when it felt ignored, especially by the United States, using threats and provocations to force its opponents to engage in dialogue or offer inducements, like badly needed aid or a peace treaty to formally replace the Korean War armistice. But for Kim to thumb his nose at China, he is gambling that Beijing will continue to believe that keeping a nuclear-armed North Korea on its border as a buffer against the Americans and South Koreans is more important than forcing it to denuclearize at the risk of its collapse. That is a big wager. President Xi Jinping of China is deeply distrustful of his counterpart, according to several Chinese diplomats and scholars, though he has sought a warmer relationship with the North in recent months. Xi sees Kim as naïve and impetuous, analysts said, and he is concerned about the country’s growing nuclear arsenal. But Xi, who has adopted an assertive approach to foreign policy, is hampered by political and military realities, including a worry that destabilizing the North could result in a chaotic influx of millions of refugees and cede territory to South Korea, a close American ally. As pressure grows on China to take a leading role in restraining North Korea, by cutting oil shipments and disrupting financial transactions, Xi faces a critical test of his presidency: whether he can subdue a young, volcanic leader without undermining China’s own interests. “The stars are probably as aligned as you could make them for Xi Jinping to do something unconventional and unprecedented,” said Evans J. R. Revere, a former senior State Department specialist on North Korea. “It’s really an open question as to whether he’s prepared to do that.” The North Korean test has also increased pressure on President Park Geun-hye of South Korea. Despite criticism from Tokyo and some misgivings in Washington, Park has doggedly cultivated closer ties with China, hoping that approach would help tame North Korea. At the same time, she shared Washington’s “strategic patience,” a policy of squeezing North Korea with sanctions and offering serious deals only if it agreed to give up its nuclear weapons, even when the North was known to be stocking fuel for more nuclear bombs. In the wake of the North Korean test, her domestic critics said none of her approaches had worked. Since he came to power four years ago, Kim has begun a series of what outside analysts call window-dressing projects: amusement parks, ski resorts, high-rise apartment buildings in Pyongyang — still suffering from electricity shortages despite being the capital. Most of the country, especially outside the capital, remains in dire poverty, a fact that analysts say has spurred Kim to focus attention on his nuclear program. “Tensions with the external world is probably what he wanted, a good excuse for him to shift the blame for his failure to improve his people’s living standards,” said Koh Yu-hwan, a professor of North Korean studies at Dongguk University in Seoul. “I see a desperate young leader struggling to establish himself among his people, who are still unsure of his economic credentials, and in a region that has become increasingly unfriendly to his country,” he said. Yet despite the scrutiny he draws, Kim has always been a puzzle to analysts. Since inheriting power after his father’s death in 2011, he has proved as Machiavellian as his forebears of the totalitarian dynasty. He replaced or shuffled crucial posts of power in the party and military and executed potential threats, including his uncle, Jang Song-thaek. Last month Moranbong, a female pop group whose members were said to be handpicked by Kim, canceled a concert in Beijing and returned home in a huff. No explanation was given. But subsequent media reports from Beijing suggested that the group and its Chinese host argued over the list of songs, some of which glorified Kim and his nuclear weapons. Two days after the group returned home, Kim signed an order to send the “thunderclap of an H-bomb.” Kim — who apparently celebrated his 33rd birthday on Friday — cultivates his cult of personality carefully. A crucial prop of Kim’s rule is the nuclear arsenal. North Korea calls it the “treasured sword” of self-defense that he has secured for his people, who are seen as being forced to live under fear of American invasion. He has been a master of perpetuating that view of the world to North Koreans. (Choe Sang-hun, “North Korean Gamble Pits Power against Power,” New York Times, January 9, 2016, p. A-1)


1/10/16:
The United States’ B-52 Stratofortress strategic bomber flew in the skies of South Korea today in a major show of force four days after North Korea conducted what it said was its first hydrogen bomb test. The B-52 bomber left U.S. Andersen Air Force Base in Guam on Sunday morning and arrived in the skies above Osan, Gyeonggi Province, at noon, armed with nuclear missiles and “bunker buster” bombs that are capable of bombarding North Korea’s underground facilities, according to Seoul and Washington. The bomber flew low past the Osan air base, flanked by an entourage of two South Korean F-15Ks and two U.S. F-16s before returning to its home base, the two sides’ militaries said. (Yonhap, “S. Korea, U.S. Deploy B-52 Bomber over Korean Peninsula,” January 10, 2016) A senior South Korean government official told JoongAng Ilbo on Sunday that U.S. Defense Secretary Ashton Carter was the one to propose deploying its strategic military assets in a phone conversation with Defense Minister Han Min-koo. “On the evening of Jan. 6, Defense Minister Han’s phone conversation with Secretary Carter lasted longer than anticipated as they discussed how to respond to the nuclear test,” the official said. “During this conversation, Secretary Carter proposed deploying U.S. strategic assets to the Korean Peninsula.” Han and Carter held a phone conversation on January 6 after Pyongyang announced it had conducted its test, and in a joint press release, they agreed to close collaboration and said that North Korea should “pay a price that is proportional to the provocation.” But unlike this time, the request to deploy U.S. strategic assets last time was made by then-Defense Minister Kim Kwan-jin, the official said, and the deployments came over a month after the nuclear test. “The United States actively proposing it this time led to a comparatively quick deployment,” he added. “The United States making public its strategic assets training serves as a strong warning to North Korea.”

(Sarah Kim and Jeong Yong-soo, “U.S. Sends B-52 Bomber to Korea in Show of Force,” JoongAng Ilbo, January 10, 2016) The 509th Bomb Wing at Whiteman Air Force Base described the purpose of the exercise as ”demonstrating the commitment of the United States and its capability to defend the Republic of Korea and to provide extended deterrence to our allies in the Asia-Pacific region.” (US Air Force, “U.S. Conducts B-52 Bomber Overflight in South Korea after Nuke Test,” January 11, 2016)


1/11/16:
A man claiming to be a naturalized American citizen told CNN that he has been held in North Korea since October on charges of spying for the South, the network reported. The North Korean authorities took the man, identified as Kim Dong-chul, 62, to a hotel in Pyongyang, the North’s capital, to be interviewed by a CNN reporter, the network said. If his claim of American citizenship is true, he would be the latest American held in the North, whose government has detained several Americans over the years on charges of illegal entry or spying and other “anti-state” crimes. CNN said it had acquired what North Korea said was a copy of Kim’s American passport. The State Department declined to comment on the case. Kim said he had lived in Fairfax, Va., before moving to Yanji, a Chinese town near the border with North Korea, in 2001. Later, he said, he ran a trading and hotel services company in Rason, a special economic zone that North Korea runs near its borders with China and Russia. Kim said he began spying on behalf of “South Korean conservative elements” in 2013, by bribing residents to collect data about the North’s military and its nuclear program. He said he was arrested in October while he was meeting his local source, a former North Korean soldier. (Choe Sang-hun, “American Held by North Korea, Report Says,” New York Times, January 12, 2016, p. A-6)


1/12/16:
KCNA: “The news of the success of the first H-bomb test of the DPRK has shocked the world. The test that was carried out in the outset of significant year 2016 in which the 7th Congress of the Workers’ Party of Korea will be held, is a reflection of the fixed faith and will of the WPK invariably keeping to the road of independence, Songun and socialism and a bright fruition brought about by the WPK’s idea on attaching importance to science and technology. The test was neither to “threaten” anyone nor to “provoke” someone for a certain purpose. It was a process indispensable for carrying out the WPK’s line on simultaneously carrying out the economic construction and the building of nuclear force to cope with the U.S. ever-more undisguised hostile policy toward the DPRK. It was also a normal course that the H-bomb nations have undergone without exception. The recent test pursuant to the WPK’s strategic line and resolution fully confirmed the accuracy of technical specifications of the new trial H-bomb and scientifically proved the power of the smaller H-bomb. This made it possible to declare with dignity that the nuclear physics of the DPRK has reached a new high stage. This also helped the DPRK get fully armed with smaller and standardized H-bombs for ballistic rockets and get possessed of ultra-modern strike means for delivering nuclear bombs of various kinds in the land, sea and air without limitation. The recent test laid a solid foundation for keeping the creation and construction going after averting the danger of a war with the help of the strongest deterrence and provided a sure guarantee for reliably safeguarding the peace and security in the Korean peninsula and the region. Herein lies the historic significance of the H-bomb test. Now personages of governments, political and public circles, scientists and technicians of over 100 countries of the world are supporting the DPRK and admiring the spectacular nuclear scientific and technological successes made by it and its nuclear deterrence for self-defense, and even nuclear scientists and experts of the U.S. are acknowledging the remarkable progress made in the nuclear science and technology of the DPRK. The scientists and technicians of the DPRK are in high spirit to detonate H-bombs of hundreds of Kt and Mt level capable of wiping out the whole territory of the U.S. all at once as it persistently moves to stifle the DPRK, cradle of life and happiness of its people, if only there are no geographical restrictions and provided the territory is vast.” (KCNA, “KCNA Commentary Lauds H-Bomb Test,” January 12, 2016)

KCNA: “A ceremony of awarding party and state commendations to nuclear scientists, technicians, soldier-builders, workers and officials who contributed to demonstrating the dignity and might of Kim Il Sung’s and Kim Jong Il’s Korea through Juche Korea’s first successful H-bomb test took place with splendor at the meeting hall of the Central Committee of the Workers’ Party of Korea (WPK) on January12. Present there was supreme leader Kim Jong Un. Prior to the ceremony, he made a congratulatory speech. He said that the recent event instilled strength incomparable to the mysterious force of the vast space into the army and people of the DPRK, demonstrated the invincibility and mightiness of Kim Il Sung’s and Kim Jong Il’s Korea far and wide and struck terrible horror into the hearts of the U.S. imperialists and their followers. Thanks to a lot of sweat shed by you while conducting painstaking inquiry and showing patriotic loyalty, the DPRK, single-mindedly united politico-ideological power and world famous military power, proudly joined the advanced nuclear weapons states, he noted, and continued: Gone forever are the times when the U.S. imperialists could threaten and blackmail the DPRK with nuclear weapons while regarding them as its monopoly and now it has become the greatest threat to the U.S. …We should never allow the high-handed and arbitrary practices of the enemies, he said, adding that the outrageous, illegal and wicked U.S. imperialists and their followers are working hard with blood-shot eyes to bring down our social system from all sides through harsh economic blockade and military pressure but we should make them clearly know the status of our strongest nuclear weapons state by making such a bold head-on charge as countering the enemy’s dagger attack with a sword and retaliating against a rifle attack with an artillery piece just as we did in the grim years of the revolution. … He underlined the need for the participants to bear deep in mind the pride and self-respect today, turn out as one in the campaign of brains and ability to bolster up both in quality and quantity the nuclear force, the greatest patriotic legacy of the great leaders, and thus thoroughly implement the WPK’s idea and line on building the nuclear force. The WPK highly appreciates once again the feats of all the participants who brought about a great event to be specially recorded in the history of the nation spanning 5 000 years, he said, hoping that the scientists standing guard over the nation’s nuclear arsenal would register bigger successes in the efforts to make a triumphant advance of the cause of the Juche revolution. Then a decree of the Presidium of the Supreme People’s Assembly of the DPRK was read out. Kim Jong Un personally awarded party and state commendations to the nuclear scientists, technicians, soldier-builders, workers and officials who contributed to the successful H-bomb test of Juche Korea. Seeing H-bomb developers full of conviction, I feel as if I gained everything, he noted, calling on the dependable nuclear combatants of the WPK to powerfully demonstrate the might of the nuclear power of Juche, Songun Korea before the whole world through the detonation of more powerful H-bomb in the future on the basis of the achievements and experience gained by them. He emphasized that the WPK laid down the line of simultaneously pushing forward economic construction and the building of nuclear force in order to honorably protect the country from the ever-increasing nuclear threat and blackmail and military pressure of the U.S. imperialists. Pointing out that the U.S. imperialists and their followers are now bringing dark clouds of a nuclear war, rendering the situation on the Korean Peninsula extremely tense through sanctions and introduction of strategic weapons into south Korea, he called for bolstering up both in quality and quantity the nuclear force capable of making nuclear strikes at the U.S.-led imperialists any time and in any space according to the order of the WPK Central Committee if they encroach upon the sovereignty of the DPRK and make threatening provocations. He set forth the important tasks to be fulfilled to bolster up the nuclear force.” (KCNA, “Party and State Commendations Awarded to Contributors to H-Bomb Test,” January 13, 2016)

Trade between North Korea and China has fallen off dramatically over the past year. According to Voice of America on Tuesday, the total trade volume between the two countries from January to November last year was US$4.9 billion, a 15-percent drop compared to the same period the year before. China’s exports and imports to and from North Korea decreased by 17 percent and 13 percent during the period. But North Korea’s exports of iron ore to China fell 68 percent, while shipments of anthracite, a major export item, fell 6.3 percent. Experts believe the decline is due to the deterioration in relations between the two countries. (Arirang News, “Trade between N. Korea and China Plummets,” Chosun Ilbo, January 13, 2016)

The U.S. House voted to toughen sanctions against North Korea following last week’s nuclear test, showing overwhelming support for a measure that would mostly target non-U.S. companies. The sanctions bill was backed by Democrats and Republicans alike in the 418-2 vote. The legislation, H.R. 757, would authorize sanctions against companies that contribute to North Korea’s nuclear program and ballistic missile development, send luxury goods to the country, help its censorship efforts or aid human rights abuses, according to a House Foreign Affairs Committee summary. The president would have the authority to waive penalties for as long as a year. “The latest test demands a response,” Representative Eliot Engel, a New York Democrat and co-sponsor of the bill, said on the House floor yesterday. “North Korea has become more and more savvy at evading sanctions and that is why this bill broadens our sanctions.” Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky said that he plans to schedule floor time on a companion measure, S. 2144, sponsored by Colorado Republican Senator Cory Gardner, which McConnell said will be considered soon by the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. The White House has yet to comment on either bill. It’s difficult to say what companies would be affected by the legislation and whether any are in the U.S., said Bruce Klingner, a senior research fellow for Northeast Asia with the conservative Heritage Foundation. That’s because any entities being sanctioned would have to already be in violation of U.S. law, he said. “The answer is we don’t know,” Klingner said in a phone interview. “It would only target activity against those who are breaking the law.” The two votes against the measure came from Republicans Justin Amash of Michigan and Thomas Massie of Kentucky. The House measure would primarily target the banking industry, said Adam Smith, who served in the Obama administration as senior adviser to the director of the U.S. Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control. “In a page right out of the Iran playbook, the idea is that if you can force financial institutions into a choice between transacting with North Korea or transacting with the United States, they will all choose the latter and leave North Korea out in the cold,” Smith, who is of counsel at the law firm Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher LLP, said in an e-mail. “I don’t think you are dealing with many U.S. companies here, though.” The president could impose sanctions on individuals determined to have knowingly facilitated the transfer of funds, financial assets or property in violation of U.S. executive orders or United Nations Security Council resolutions, according to a review of the legislation by Bloomberg Government analyst Stacy Z. O’Mara. “Sanctions would apply to entities and individuals that engage in transactions with — or provide financial services to — North Korea and its financial institutions without adequate safeguards to protect against illicit activities,” O’Mara said in an analysis of the bill. “Such protections have been defined in executive orders and United Nations Security Council resolutions covering nonproliferation of weapons of mass destruction dating back to 2006.” The bill could allow for stiffer inspections of any vessel that has used a port that doesn’t sufficiently inspect traffic from North Korea. The legislation would require the White House to report to Congress on overseas ports and airports whose inspections are insufficient, according to the House Foreign Affairs summary. “Cargo coming from ports that consistently fail to inspect North Korean cargo, as required by UN resolutions, may be subject to increased inspection requirements at U.S. ports,” the bill summary said. The bill might be altered as it moves through Congress, perhaps to order broader secondary sanctions against North Korea, said Richard Nephew, who served as principal deputy coordinator for sanctions policy against Iran at the State Department and was involved in the Iran negotiations from August 2013 through December 2014. “The set of discretionary sanctions can become mandatory,” said Nephew, who now leads Columbia University’s Center on Global Energy Policy. “Then all of a sudden you are in a problematic spot with U.S.-China relations in particular.” Secondary sanctions, such as those in place for Iran, would force U.S. businesses and financial institutions to ban dealings with any foreign entity that may have facilitated illicit North Korean activity. That could mean a huge loss of U.S. business in China, the North’s biggest trading partner, he said. “If I were still in government, I’d be telling Congress, ‘Don’t do anything,’” Nephew said. He advised against legislation “that would convince the Chinese that there is no point in doing anything at the UN because the Americans are going to do what they want anyway.” “If the UN acts, then it’s far better and we can complement it with our own authorities later on,” he said. (Kathleen Miller, “House Passes North Korea Sanctions Bill after Nuclear Test,” Bloomberg, January 12, 2016)

John Schilling: “While a reported third test of North Korea’s submarine-launched ballistic missile (SLBM) system in December 2015 now appears to have failed, an examination of the video of the initial stages of this launch along with commercial satellite imagery of the submarine and support vessels in port two days later, suggests that this test was probably conducted from a submerged barge rather than an actual submarine. The failed launch combined with testing from a barge shows that North Korea still has a long way to go to develop this system. Contrary to some speculation in the media, an initial operational capability of a North Korean ballistic-missile submarine is not expected before 2020. In May 2015, North Korea announced that they had launched a missile from a submarine, and it appears to have been from a submersible test barge rather than a sub. We later heard rumors that North Korea tried to launch another missile from a submarine, and damaged the submarine instead. The North Koreans, unsurprisingly, said nothing. Late last month, intelligence reports say there was another submarine-launched ballistic missile test. South Korea says it also failed, but the North Koreans claimed success. Clearly, there’s some disinformation somewhere in the mix. The smart money is to look more closely at what we can see—and if it’s the North Koreans showing us pretty pictures, take a close and skeptical look. North Korea did release a video of the launch, although closer examination of the video itself has revealed inconsistencies that suggest it has been spliced together to show success. But we also have commercial satellite imagery of the Sinpo South Shipyard, and those North Korea can’t fake. So if we take the pictures we can trust, the video that has been edited by people we don’t trust, and the various rumors and leaked intelligence reports, what does it all add up to? What we can learn from the video, is that for just a few frames, peeking out from behind the head of the official to Kim Jong Un’s right, is what looks like the stern of a vessel—consistent in its features with the support ship that is usually berthed next to North Korea’s “SINPO” or “GORAE” class missile submarine in port. The boat appears to be about 50 to 100 meters from the missile launch site. That would be dangerously close to a submarine operating at shallow depth for a missile launch. But it would be just about right, and quite necessary, for a submerged barge. There are other reasons to believe that this was a barge test rather than a submarine, such as the condition of the submarine. It was reported to have been damaged in the November test; even if it had been repaired since, it is unlikely that the DPRK would risk the boat in another test launch without first double checking the launch mechanism with another barge test. Commercial satellite imagery from December 23, 2015, just two days after the most recent test, also shows the submarine in port with its bow slightly elevated, missile hatch open or removed, and camouflage netting over the sail and deck. It seems that someone is doing repair or maintenance work on the boat. Possibly this is routine post-launch maintenance, but if that were the case, the most pressing issue would be to remove or replace the launch canister, and that would require a crane. Indeed, we see such a crane at the dock—next to the submersible test barge, not the submarine.” (John Schilling, “North Korea Tests a Submerged-Launch Ballistic Missile, Take Three,” 38North, January 12, 2016)


1/13/16:
An unmanned aerial vehicle presumed to have come from North Korea violated the border Wednesday, prompting the South Korean military to fire warning shots and scramble fighter jets, officials said. The drone emerged at around 2:10 p.m. near the Dorasan observation post in Paju, Gyeonggi Province, and turned back immediately after the South issued warnings and then fired some 20 rounds from a K-3 machine gun. “An unidentified small flight vehicle, which was spotted by our radar flying in the North skies in the morning, approached the Military Demarcation Line and then invaded it by dozens of meters for several seconds,” an official at the Joint Chiefs of Staff told reporters on the customary condition of anonymity. The drone, the first detected since the two Koreas’ high-level dialogue late last August, is likely to have been dispatched to track the movement of frontline South Korean units following Seoul’s restart January 8 of propaganda loudspeaker broadcasts throughout the Demilitarized Zone. In another apparent tit-for-tat move, Pyongyang has started distributing anti-Seoul propaganda leaflets across the frontier. Some of the leaflets were discovered in parts of Seoul and Goyang, Paju and other northern locales in Gyeonggi Province early in the morning. The papers mainly called for an end to the border broadcasts and “knockdown” of the Park Geun-hye government. The South’s military said it detected the North’s launch of plastic balloons believed to be carrying the fliers late Tuesday and early Wednesday, warning of a resumption of its own pamphlet-spraying activities. “We’ve yet to decide, but are ready to undertake our leaflet operations, closely monitoring the North Korean military’s movement,” the JCS official said. The communist state has previously sent anti-Seoul brochures mostly toward border islands in the West Sea, but the latest scattering is deemed unusual, given its vast scale traversing the Seoul metropolitan area. The two rare events, coupled with Pyongyang’s reactivation of its own loudspeakers, are stoking concerns that it may soon stage a bigger provocation, such as in the frontline regions. Shortly after the South resumed the broadcasts last August in retaliation against the North’s land mine attack, it fired artillery shells near a loudspeaker erected in a western border town, declaring a “quasi-state of war,” forward-stationing offensive assets and placing troops in full combat readiness. The JCS released four different fliers, each measuring 12 centimeters by 4.5 centimeters and printed on white and violet laminated paper. “As we do with a rabid dog, let’s crack the Park Geun-hye clique that deteriorated the North-South relations by resuming anti-North psychological warfare broadcasts,” reads one, while another says, “Stop immediately the anti-North psychological warfare broadcasts that would light the fuse of a war.” Others warn Seoul against jeopardizing its own safety through a provocation, and urge the U.S. to scrap what it calls an “anti-North hostile policy.” The police also collected some 1,000 handouts near Seoul Forest that threatened a “bombardment of fire” for offending the Kim Jong-un leadership, and more from Uijeongbu, Dongducheon, Paju, Yangpyeong and other Gyeonggi Province areas. “The North spread them apparently to help offset the effects of our broadcasts,” a Defense Ministry official said. The South Korean military’s leaflet operations have been on hold since the two Koreas agreed to cease propaganda activities in June 2004, though some defectors and nongovernmental organizations have been allowed to carry out their own campaigns. Earlier in the day, seven members of the defector group Fighters For Free North Korea, led by Park Sang-hak, sought to launch about 300,000 anti-Pyongyang fliers in Gimpo, Gyeonggi Province. But the police blocked their advancement, citing concerns over residents’ safety. (Shin Hyon-hee, “South Fires Warning Shots at Suspected N. Korean Drone,” Korea Herald, January 13, 2016)

President Barack Obama intentionally avoided mentioning North Korea in his final State of the Union address, as he did not want to give attention to the communist state’s leader, according to a senior Washington official. “If there is one thing I know about the leader of North Korea, it is that he likes attention and probably would like nothing more than the president to spend a lot of time to talk about it in the State of the Union,” Ben Rhodes, a deputy national security adviser told reporters. “We didn‘t particularly feel compelled to give him that attention.” Rhodes still called North Korea-related issues a “top priority” to the president. But he stressed that “strength should not be defined by provocations.” “The way in which you show strength in the world should not be defined by the occasional provocative launch or test of a device while your own people are starving. We don’t seek to elevate him, personally. So, that was our thinking in that regard,” he said. (Song Sang-ho, “Obama ‘Intentionally’ Avoids N.K. in Speech,” Korea Herald, January 14, 2016)

President Park Geun-hye hinted at plans to step up South Korea’s psychological warfare tactics against North Korea in response to the latter’s fourth nuclear test last week. In addition to emphasizing the effectiveness of recent loudspeaker broadcasts to North Korea, Park also suggested Seoul might pursue “additional measures” such as staff reductions or withdrawals from the Kaesong Industrial Complex — the subject of two recent visitor limitation measures — if any military clash occurs with the North. Speaking in a New Year’s address to the nation, Park focused particular attention on the effects of the loudspeaker broadcasts, resumed in the wake of last week’s nuclear test, calling them the “surest and most effective means of psychological warfare.” Park also went further by stating plans to “continue efforts to share the truth with the North Korean people,” suggesting the possible additional use of other means of psychological warfare such as leaflet launches. “No decision has been made yet on the leaflet launch issue or additional loudspeakers, but all the relevant factors are currently being weighed,” said a Ministry of National Defense source. As an example of the effectiveness of the broadcasts, Park cited a previous resumption last August. But the argument — that the broadcasts successfully led Pyongyang into dialogue with Seoul — is something of a stretch. The broadcasts were originally resumed for the first time in 11 years as a means of hitting back against North Korea following a mine explosion that severely injured two South Korean soldiers in the Demilitarized Zone. Ten days later, North Korean forces fired on the speakers, prompting the South to return fire. North Korean leader Kim Jong-un also declared a “quasi-state of war” for the first time since the 2010 artillery attack on Yeonpyeong Island. It was under those circumstances that the countries held their “two-plus-two” high-level talks among senior defense and foreign affairs officials, which produced the agreement on August 25. That agreement in turn led to the staging of reunions among separated family members in October and a first round of vice ministerial-level talks in December. It was a process that entailed intensive senior dialogue to overcome hair-trigger military tensions — a fact that went unmentioned in Park’s talk. A government source also noted that the “resumption of loudspeaker broadcasts [last year] did not have the intention of bringing about inter-Korean dialogue.” While Park emphasized the effectiveness of the broadcasts, she was more circumspect on the issue of additional measures with the Kaesong Industrial Complex. When asked whether she was considering closing the complex, she replied, “We’re not thinking of anything so extreme [as a shutdown] right now, but citizen safety is our top priority, and the question of additional measures depends entirely on North Korea.” The message is that Seoul is not currently considering whether to pull all South Korean workers out of the complex, but that it could drastically cut the number of workers, or withdraw them entirely, if North Korea pursues military action. One particularly notable aspect of Park’s argument was that it linked the possibility of additional measures on the complex to the question of “citizen safety” rather than that of sanctions against North Korea. “The emphasis there was on the part of ‘not thinking about anything so extreme,’” an administration source said. (Kim Jin-cheol, “Park Hints at Broadening Psychological Warfare Tactics in New Year’s Address,” Hankyore, January 14, 2016)

North Korea’s U.N. mission claimed Wednesday that its successful nuclear bomb test showed that it could now “wipe out” the United States, as the U.N. Security Council grappled with a response to the underground blast. North Korea called it a hydrogen bomb and said the test “scientifically proved the power of the smaller H-bomb,” though the United States and others expressed skepticism that Pyongyang actually tested a hydrogen bomb for the first time. Nonetheless, whatever the North detonated underground will likely push the country closer toward a fully functional nuclear arsenal, which it still is not thought to have. A Security Council diplomat said Wednesday that the U.N.’s most powerful body is working on a resolution that imposes tougher sanctions on North Korea to reflect the claim that it tested a more powerful hydrogen bomb, which is “a step change” from its three previous atomic test. The diplomat, speaking on condition of anonymity because consultations have been private, said all 15 council members agree that North Korea should be denuclearized, and this will be reflected in a new resolution. North Korea’s U.N. mission circulated a report from the country’s news agency saying the January 6 test wasn’t to “threaten” or “provoke” anyone but was indispensable to build a nuclear force “to cope with the U.S. ever-more undisguised hostile policy” toward the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea. It said North Korean scientists and technicians “are in high spirit to detonate H-bombs … capable of wiping out the whole territory of the U.S. all at once as it persistently moves to stifle the DPRK.” (Edith Lederer, “North Korea Says Nuclear Test Shows It Could ‘Wipe Out’ U.S.,” Associated Press, January 13, 2016)

ISIS: “Over the last several years, North Korea has engaged in retrofitting and upgrading its small five megawatt-electric (MWe) reactor, likely to make plutonium for nuclear weapons. A historical analysis of satellite imagery gathered between the end of 2014 and the end of 2015 suggests that since October 2014, the reactor has operated at low power or intermittently. ISIS also gathered other information indicating that the reactor has operated intermittently during this period. For example, it operated for a limited time, sometimes a few weeks, followed by a shutdown. The reasons for this type of operation are not known. During the last year, the outflow of hot water from the almost one meter diameter pipe that discharges water into the nearby river has not been visible. In earlier images, the water outflow was visible in several satellite images. Assuming no other discharge point, and ISIS has not found any so far, the absence of this important signature suggests that the reactor has operated, but its power has likely been far below optimal. Consistent with on-going intermittent operation, Airbus imagery dated January 11, 2016, acquired and analyzed by ISIS, shows what appears to be the emission of steam from the 5MWe reactor’s turbine building. This is a signature of turbine activity which, in turn, indicates that the reactor is operational, although possibly at low power. Additionally, a very large truck is visible at the entrance of the reactor. The January 11, 2016 imagery does not show a steady stream of water being discharged from the reactor’s discharge pipeline, the main sign of full-power operation. Therefore, it is not possible to assess that the reactor has resumed full power operation, as North Korea has claimed. However, the steam from the turbine building and the presence of vehicles and a large truck at the site are both important signatures indicating on-going activity. It is, therefore, very likely that the reactor is still operating intermittently or at low power as of January 2016. No new activities have been observed at the experimental light water reactor (LWR). As figure 1 shows, light snow is present on both the dome of the reactor and on the roof adjacent to the reactor. This is likely an indication that the reactor is not operational, although nothing suggests that construction has stopped. The delays in the reactor’s operation, however, require further analysis. The reactor may no longer be a North Korean priority and have a significantly delayed start date. North Korea may have also encountered technical challenges or decided to redesign the reactor. There are also growing indications that the reactor may not be a light water reactor modeled after the KEDO reactors that were being supplied by South Korea under the 1994 Agreed Framework. Publicly, many have shared this view ever since visitors to North Korea announced the construction of this reactor in 2010. This type of reactor has a thick, relatively small pressure vessel that is extremely challenging to make. However, as of 2010, the reactor was at its early stages of construction, thus the visitors were not able to see any direct evidence about the type of reactor. The available evidence suggests a reactor with a larger core vessel than that typical of a KEDO-type LWR. Leading alternative candidates are a light water cooled, graphite moderated reactor, similar to Russian designs, or a large research reactor. Although ISIS is not in position to settle this issue at this time, it requires more scrutiny.” (David Albright and Serena Kelleher-Vergantini, “Update of Key Activities at North Korea’s Yongbyon Nuclear Site,” Institute for Science and International Security, January 13, 2015)


1/14/16:
William Mugford: “Recent commercial satellite imagery of the Yongbyon Nuclear Scientific Research Center has revealed new developments over the past six months, most recently in January 2016, suggesting that North Korea’s Experimental Light Water Reactor (ELWR) is edging closer to becoming operational. These developments are: 1) the completion of two channels that will feed water into a cistern connected to the reactor’s pump house for its cooling system; and 2) the completion of the reactor’s electric transformer yard with the installation of two new transformers. However, predicting when construction will finish and the ELWR will be become operational has proven to be difficult. Aside from determining whether work has been finished inside the externally complete building, it still remains unclear whether the North has succeeded in fabricating the fuel assemblies necessary to power the reactor. If the ELWR becomes operational, it would be a significant development for North Korea. Aside from laying the groundwork for the construction of additional light-water reactors and providing electricity for civilian purposes, the reactor could also produce fissile material for nuclear weapons. The ELWR may also pose a safety hazard given concerns about its design and the North’s lack of experience in operating such a facility. …Imagery from September 2012 to October 2015 shows continued slow progress towards the completion of the reactor’s transformer yard. (An electrical substation with transformers and switches to direct and control the reactor-produced power into the attached power lines, a transformer yard is a necessary part of every power producing (or power using) system.) When first observed in September 2012, the yard consisted of foundation excavations. Work on power line towers and switch stanchions that occupy the outer (eastern) section of the yard was completed within a year. Installation of probable transformers, located in the western section adjacent to the reactor hall, took more time, perhaps because they had to be ordered and delivered. The first transformer was installed in July 2015 and the second, nearly twice as large as the other one, in October 2015, completing the yard.” (William Mugford, “North Korea’s Yongbyon Nuclear Facility: Slow Progress at the Experimental Light Water Reactor,” 38North, January 14, 2016)

Choe Ryong-hae, 66, one of the leading figures in North Korea’s “second generation of partisans,” made an appearance at a public event for the first time in two months. In a January 15 report by Rodong Sinmun, Choe — identified by the paper as “Secretary of the Korean Workers’ Party Central Committee” — delivered an address at an awards ceremony marking the 70th anniversary of the establishment of the Kim Il-sung Socialist Youth League. The ceremony, the paper said, was held at the People’s Palace of Culture in Pyongyang on January 14. (Kim Jin-cheol, “Choe Ryong-hae, High-Ranking N.K. Figure, Makes First Public Appearance in Two Months,” Hankyore, January 16, 2016)


1/15/16:
DPRK FoMin Spokesman’s statement “in which he said that its first successful H-bomb test was a just measure for self-defense to defend the sovereignty of the country and the right of the nation to live and ensure peace on the Korean Peninsula and regional security. The DPRK is not interested in aggravating the situation as it is channeling all its efforts into the building of an economic power and feels no need to provoke anyone. …As the first chairman of the National Defense Commission of the DPRK clarified in his New Year Address, its primary task for this year is to develop economy and improve the people’s standard of living and to this end it requires stable situation and peaceful climate more than any time. As the U.S. hostile acts against the DPRK have become “routine,” the latter has also become routine in its work to implement the line of simultaneously developing the two fronts for self-defense to cope with them. Now the U.S. should be accustomed to the status of the DPRK as a nuclear weapons state whether it likes or not. As the DPRK had already clarified, it will bolster in every way the capabilities for nuclear attack and retaliation to cope with the U.S. ceaseless acts of infringing upon former’s sovereignty and perpetrating threatening provocations, but it will not deliberately use nuclear weapons. Still valid are all proposals for preserving peace and stability in the peninsula and Northeast Asia including the ones for ceasing our nuclear test and concluding a peace treaty in return for U.S. halt to joint military exercises. It is preposterous for the U.S. to talk about “provocations” from the DPRK though it is persistently sidestepping the latter’s fair and aboveboard proposals and escalating the tension. It is the U.S. and the south Korean puppet forces that are making provocations against the DPRK, rendering the situation in the peninsula extremely tense. The south Korean puppet forces’ resumption of psychological warfare broadcasting is a sheer provocation nothing relevant to the normal process pursuant to the DPRK’s line of simultaneously developing the two fronts. The U.S. is working hard to bring the dark clouds of a nuclear war by introducing the strategic nuclear strike means into south Korea. In the UN, too, it is making great haste to fabricate a “resolution on sanctions” aimed at such hostile acts as hamstringing our efforts for peaceful economic construction and the improvement of the people’s standard of living. Such provocative and hostile acts against the DPRK will not be confined to escalating the tension in the peninsula but inevitably lead to a war. Once a powder keg catches fire and goes off, the responsibility for it will rest with those who ignited the fuse.” (KCNA, “U.S. Should Be Accustomed to Status of DPRK As Nuclear Weapons State,” January 15, 2016)

China is opposed to a set of tougher sanctions on North Korea proposed by South Korea, the U.S., and Japan, a diplomatic source said after key direct consultations between Seoul and Beijing. Hwang Joon-kook, South Korea’s chief nuclear envoy, held talks with his Chinese counterpart Wu Dawei in Beijing a day earlier. It was their first face-to-face meeting between them since the North’s nuclear test on January 6. The two sides agreed to seek a “clear and certain” response to the North’s provocation, Hwang told reporters. It strongly suggested that Beijing is against pushing Pyongyang too hard amid efforts by Seoul, Washington and Tokyo for “strong and comprehensive” sanctions. Hwang pointed out the format of the U.N. Security Council’s punitive step has been already set. The 15-member council agreed to adopt a resolution. Its contents are a sticking point and it remains uncertain how quickly a resolution will be produced. Hwang would not reveal details. “It would take quite a lot of time for China to review the contents as those would affect many (Chinese) government agencies, not just the foreign ministry, as well as local authorities and private entities,” the source said. “China is doing quite a bit of homework. Frankly, there is a difference (between South Korea and China) on the level of sanctions (on the North).” China believes excessive sanctions on the North will have a negative effect on dialogue efforts, added the source. Earlier today, South Korea and China had working-level military talks in Seoul. Rear Adm. Guan Youfei, foreign affairs office director at China’s defense ministry, was quoted as reaffirming Beijing’s commitment to a new U.N. resolution against the North. “China is absolutely against North Korea’s nuclear test,” he emphasized, according to a South Korean official. Still, China will hold onto three principles — denuclearizing and keeping the peace on the Korean Peninsula and resolution through dialogue and negotiations — in resolving issues arising from North Korea’s recent nuclear detonation, Youfei added. In Beijing, China’s foreign ministry spokesman Hong Lei told reporters that a new U.N. resolution must focus on safeguarding stability in the region. “The Chinese side supports reactions from the U.N. Security Council on North Korea’s latest nuclear test,” Hong said. “The relevant resolution should focus on realizing the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula, preventing nuclear proliferation and safeguarding peace and stability in Northeast Asia.” (Yonhap, “S. Korea, China Split over Level of Sanctions on N. Korea,” January 15, 2016)


1/16/16:
North Korea demanded the conclusion of a peace treaty with the United States and a halt to U.S. military exercises with South Korea to end its nuclear tests. But U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Antony Blinken said Pyongyang needed to demonstrate by its action that it was serious about denuclearization for any dialogues to start. “We now have unfortunately a decade during which North Korea has totally reversed its obligations to international community, when it comes to missile and nuclear programs,” Blinken told a news conference in Tokyo. “So it’s very hard to take any of their overtures very seriously, particularly in the wake of their fourth nuclear test,” he said, after meeting his counterpart from Japan and South Korea. Asked if the United States would consider a halt to joint exercises, U.S. State Department spokesman John Kirby said it had alliance commitments to South Korea. “We are going to continue to make sure the alliance is ready in all respects to act in defense of the South Korean people and the security of the peninsula,” he told a regular news briefing. Blinken said that Pyongyang should look to the example of Iran. Iran’s foreign minister said international sanctions on the country will be lifted on Saturday when the United Nations nuclear agency declares Tehran has complied with an agreement to scale back its nuclear program. “What made that agreement (with Iran) possible was the decision by Iran to freeze, and in some respects roll back, its nuclear program, in order to allow time and space to see if we could negotiate a comprehensive agreement.”(Tony Munroe and Sano Hideyuki, “”N. Korea Says Peace Treaty, Halt to Exercises, Would End Nuclear Tests,” Reuters, January 16, 2016) It was the fall of 2013, and the North’s third nuclear test in seven years, carried out several months earlier, had rattled much of the world. But President Xi Jinping, in a private meeting with President Obama at Constantine Palace in St. Petersburg, Russia, warned against putting too much pressure on Kim Jong-un, the North’s young, volcanic leader. “A barefoot person does not fear those who wear shoes,” Xi told Obama, invoking a Chinese proverb to convey that an impoverished nation like North Korea had nothing to lose by standing up to China and the United States. The conversation was recounted by an American diplomat familiar with the talks, who spoke on the condition of anonymity for fear of angering the Chinese. While Xi has taken a tougher approach than his predecessors on North Korea, he has resisted inflicting crippling punishments on the North, an ally for six decades and a valuable counterweight for Beijing to American military might in Asia. South Korea’s president, Park Geun-hye, who has cultivated closer ties to Xi, called on China this week to match its disapproving words about the North’s nuclear ambitions with “necessary measures.” But Chinese scholars and officials involved in North Korean policy said that Xi was reluctant to take sweeping action, by cutting shipments of oil and food, for instance, or blocking access to banks. He has not wavered from his view, expressed to Obama in 2013, that destabilizing the North would create chaos in the region, these people said. And he is especially sensitive to the prospect of a reunified Korea backed by the United States when China is trying to assert its dominance in Asia.

“If North Korea becomes an enemy state, it would have plenty of ways to harm China,” said Shi Yinhong, a professor of international relations at Renmin University in Beijing. “Beijing cannot afford to have North Korea become permanently hostile.” Adding to the complications, Xi, 62, and Kim, believed to be 33, have a fraught relationship, say American, Chinese, and South Korean officials. Yang Xiyu, a former senior Chinese official who oversaw talks with North Korea, said the chance of a meeting between the two leaders, which was discussed privately by Chinese officials last year, was now “sharply reduced.” “The nuclear test will seriously damage the bilateral relationship,” Yang said. “Xi Jinping has been forced to be more assertive.” While his predecessors welcomed North Korean leaders with the fanfare of Politburo meetings, Xi has kept a distance. Chinese and American officials trace that to his distrust of Kim, whose first nuclear test as supreme leader came in February 2013, just a few months after Xi came to power. In an unusually public rebuke, Xi warned that no country should be able to throw the world into chaos for “selfish gain.” Later that year, he imposed sanctions, limiting shipments of materials used in weapons and cutting ties to some North Korean banks, though enforcement was lax. Xi has made clear to the North that its future lies in economic reform, not military development, and that China will not accept a nuclear state, current and former Chinese and American officials said. Increasingly, he has come to see the North as a liability, at odds with his vision of making China a pre-eminent superpower. “Kim has kept challenging China’s fundamental interests, policies and the security of the whole northeast of Asia,” Professor Shi said. In a sign of his displeasure, Xi has cultivated better relations with Park, the South Korean president, traveling to Seoul for a state visit in 2014. Those efforts seem in part aimed at undermining American power in Asia. Beijing considers Seoul the “weakest link” among American allies in the region, said Lee Seong-Hyon, an assistant professor at Kyushu University in Japan. Privately, officials at the Chinese Foreign Ministry have become more vocal about their distrust of the North and Kim, as unease among the Chinese public about the country’s erratic ally has grown, American diplomats said. Jon M. Huntsman Jr., who served as the American ambassador to China from 2009 to 2011, said there was a generational divide among Chinese officials about how to deal with North Korea. “The older apparatchiks would defend the North Korean line,” he said. “The younger ones wanted this issue to go away. There’s no emotional connection, there’s no war being waged.” In recent months, Xi extended several olive branches to Kim, concerned that the relationship had deteriorated to the point that Kim might lash out again, American and Chinese diplomats said. In October, Xi dispatched a top official to a military parade in Pyongyang, carrying a letter from Xi extolling Kim’s achievements, which some officials viewed as a precursor to a meeting between the two leaders. John Delury, an associate professor at Yonsei University in Seoul, said those efforts showed that Xi could accept Kim’s leadership of North Korea. “But what he needs and expects from Kim is to show the kind of deference that Korea, a ‘small country,’ owes China, a ‘great power,’ “Delury wrote in an email. “Kim, for his own reasons, refuses to give it.” At the parade in October, Kim stood next to Xi’s envoy, smiling and waving. He spoke of a “blood-tied friendship” and said that “bilateral ties are more than neighborliness,” according to North Korean news media.

“Traditions should not be confined to history books,” Kim said. “They should be carried out in practice.” In its report on the visit, Xinhua, the official news agency of the Chinese Communist Party, omitted Kim’s remarks. (Javier Hernandez, “China Resists Pressure to Curb North Koreans,” New York Times, January 16, 2016, p. A-7)


1/17/16:
Fresh U.S. sanctions over Iran’s ballistic missile program showed that Tehran has worked closely with North Korea to move its missile program forward. The Treasury Department sanctioned 11 individuals and entities for involvement in procurement on behalf of Iran’s ballistic missile program. The sanctions were a punishment for Iran’s test-firing in October of a missile capable of delivering a nuclear warhead in violation of a U.N. ban. The Treasury said three of the sanctioned Iranian officials have had close ties with the North. One of them, Sayyed Javad Musavi, is a commercial director of the Shahid Hemmat Industrial Group (SHIG), a subsidiary of Iran’s Aerospace Industries Organization (AIO) under Iran’s Ministry of Defense for Armed Forces Logistics (MODAFL). “Musavi has worked directly with North Korean officials in Iran from the U.N.- and U.S.-designated Korea Mining Development Trading Corporation (KOMID),” the Treasury said in a statement. KOMID is North Korea’s primary arms dealer and main exporter of goods and equipment related to ballistic missiles and conventional weapons, and has been sanctioned by the U.S. and the United Nations. “SHIG also coordinates KOMID shipments to Iran. The shipments have included valves, electronics, and measuring equipment suitable for use in ground testing of liquid propellant ballistic missiles and space launch vehicles,” the Treasury said.

“Within the past several years, Iranian missile technicians from SHIG traveled to North Korea to work on an 80-ton rocket booster being developed by the North Korean government,” it said. The two other Iranian officials with ties to the North are SHIG Director Seyed Mirahmad Nooshin and Sayyed Medhi Farahi, deputy of MODAFL. The Treasury said the two have been “critical to the development of the 80-ton rocket booster, and both traveled to Pyongyang during contract negotiations.” (Yonhap, “Fresh U.S. Sanctioned Show Iran’s Close Ballistic Missile Cooperation with North Korea,” Korea Times, January 18, 2016)


1/18/16:
China urged all relevant parties to take a “comprehensive” approach to deal with North Korea’s latest nuclear test, repeating Beijing’s long-standing stance that is seen as more accommodating towards Pyongyang. “The Chinese side believes that a comprehensive approach needs to be sorted out to address the cause and crux of the Korean nuclear issue,” China’s foreign ministry spokesman Hong Lei told a daily press briefing. “We hope that all sides can calmly react to the current situation, stick to dialogue and consultations, work toward the same direction and properly deal with each other’s concerns,” Hong said. (Yonhap, “China Calls for ‘Comprehensive’ Approach to N. Korea’s Nuclear Test,” January 18, 2016)

Sigal: “North Korea’s fourth nuclear test is nothing to disparage. Even if it was neither an H-bomb nor a boosted energy device, the test advanced Pyongyang’s effort to develop a compact nuclear warhead that it can deliver by missile. The question is, why test now? Technical considerations have never sufficed before and are unlikely now to have motivated Pyongyang, where security is always in the driver’s seat. As its foreign ministry spokesman put it on May 30, “[T]he only way to prevent a war between the DPRK and the US, which lack even elementary trust in each other and have long stood in mistrust and hostility only, is for the former to bolster up its defense capabilities so as to ensure balance of forces.” Negotiations to ease mistrust and hostility remain the only way to stop further nuclear advances by North Korea. The possibility that Pyongyang may have been willing to stop arming has received scant attention in recent days. Yet the test could possibly have been forestalled a year ago if the administration of President Barack Obama had explored a promising offer by Pyongyang to suspend testing — and much more — if its security were addressed as well. That was the gist of its January 9, 2015 offer of “temporarily suspending the nuclear test over which the US is concerned” if the United States “temporarily suspend[s] joint military exercises in South Korea and its vicinity this year.” Like most opening bids in a negotiation, the offer was unacceptable, but instead of probing it further, Washington rejected it out of hand within hours and publicly denounced it as an “implicit threat.” Unofficial contacts soon revealed that the North seemed ready to settle for Washington to modulate rather than cancel the largest exercises and take steps to end what Pyongyang calls US “hostile policy,” above all, begin work on a peace treaty to end the Korean War. In return, it seemed prepared to suspend not just nuclear testing, but also missile and satellite launches and fissile material production at Yongbyon. Those contacts might have opened the way to talks in January 2015, but the initiative was squelched in Washington. Instead, US officials continued to insist that Pyongyang take unilateral steps to show it was serious about denuclearizing and ruled out reciprocity by Washington. As the Assistant Secretary of State for East Asia, Daniel Russel, put it on February 4, “North Korea does not have the right to bargain, to trade or ask for a pay-off in return for abiding by international law.” His premise is that the North failed to live up to past agreements, which sidesteps the fact that Washington and its allies failed to keep their side of the bargains, too. It also ignores the fact that for nearly three decades Pyongyang has sought an end to enmity with Washington, Seoul and Tokyo, or in the words of the 1994 Agreed Framework, “move toward full political and economic normalization.” To that end, it was prepared to suspend its weapons programs — or resume them if thwarted. North Korea’s nuclear and missile brinkmanship is well documented, but it is easily forgotten that from 1991 to 2003, North Korea reprocessed no fissile material and conducted very few test launches of medium- or long-range missiles and suspended its weapons programs again from 2007 to early 2009. Was Kim Jong Un again trying to improve relations, and if so, why? Not economic desperation, as some in Washington and Seoul believe. Quite the contrary, his economy has been growing over the past decade. To deliver on his pledge to improve his people’s standard of living, however, he needed to divert resources and investment from military to civilian production. To restrain military spending he needed a secure international environment. Failing that, he would “strengthen his deterrent,” reducing the need for greater spending on conventional forces. That was the basis of his so-called byungjin “strategic line on carrying out economic construction and building nuclear armed forces simultaneously under the prevailing situation,” that is, as long as US “hostile policy” persisted. It was his own version of President Dwight Eisenhower’s bigger bang for a buck. Demands for increased military spending may have prompted him to execute his defense minister. It may account for his exaggerated claims about testing an “H-bomb.” Putting the military in its place may also explain why he gave credit to the party and the government for the H-bomb. According to official North Korean media, Kim made the decision to test as head of the Korean Workers Party, not the National Defense Council, and the government, not the NDC, announced the successful test. With Washington unwilling to drop its preconditions for talks, Kim reached out to Beijing, Tokyo and Seoul. Beijing had kept its distance from Kim Jong Un, but sensing that he might soon attempt another satellite launch, it moved to head him off by accommodating its troublesome neighbor politically and economically. Dashing the hopes of many in Washington and Seoul for cooler relations, President Xi Jinping had a top official deliver an October 9 letter to Kim Jong Un pledging to “seek closer communication and deepen cooperation, pushing for a long-term, healthy and stable development of the Sino-DPRK ties.” He linked that pledge, however, to China’s interest in a peaceful and stable Korean peninsula and an early resumption of Six Party talks. A summit meeting with Kim may have been on offer if he refrained from a satellite launch and nuclear test. Relations soon cooled again. On Dec. 10 Kim spoke publicly about having an H-bomb. Beijing promptly showed its displeasure. High-ranking officials who were expected to attend a concert in Beijing by Kim’s favorite North Korean pop band abruptly proved unavailable, and the North Koreans canceled their tour and returned home. Pyongyang’s relations with Tokyo and Seoul fared no better. Determined to resolve the issue of Japanese citizens abducted by the North decades ago, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe began talks. While he eased sanctions and reportedly offered economic assistance, he was slow to discuss a fundamental improvement in relations, as envisioned in the 2002 Pyongyang Declaration. The North for its part was less than forthcoming about its pledge to reinvestigate the abductions. As a result, the talks languished. Since coming to power, Kim has made repeated efforts to reach out to South Korea’s president, Park Geun-hye — efforts that she did not reciprocate. Having failed, he resorted to brinkmanship, instigating a crisis last August that led to the resumption of talks and an easing of mounting tensions. Follow-up talks on December 11-12 went nowhere, however. With all his diplomatic initiatives unrequited, Kim Jong Un decided three days later to prepare a fourth nuclear test. Like his grandfather and father before him, he would stand up to all his neighbors in an effort to force them to be its friends. Now all the talk in Washington is about sanctions, but intensified pressure on Pyongyang will only lead to further tests. Even if it refuses to give up the few nuclear weapons it has, negotiations are still worth trying to see whether Pyongyang is willing stop arming.” (Leon V. Sigal, “Why Did North Korea Test?” Global Asia Forum, January 18, 2015)


1/19/16:
North Korea’s January 6 nuclear test did not expand its technical capability, but the U.S. government is keeping a close eye on Pyongyang’s efforts to develop a thermonuclear warhead capable of reaching the United States, the head of the U.S. Missile Defense Agency said. “I would assess that their technical capability has not increased,” Vice Admiral James Syring told an event hosted by the Center for Strategic and International Studies. “That said, everything that they’re doing continues to be alarming and provoking. … We continue to watch it closely.” Syring gave no further details on what was North Korea’s fourth nuclear test. The United States has made no major changes in efforts to identify, track and intercept potential North Korean missile threats as a result of the latest test, he said. “If it was warranted, you would see our program change,” he said. “We are absolutely on the right path to stay ahead of that threat.” He said the Missile Defense Agency would have 37 ground-based interceptors in place in Alaska and California by the end of the year, and 44 such interceptors by the end of 2017. Then-Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel ordered 14 additional interceptors to be put in place in March 2013 after North Korea’s third nuclear test. Nuclear experts say North Korea likely gained data and practical know-how from the test. They reject North Korea’s assertion that it detonated a hydrogen bomb. In an H-bomb, conventional explosives compress and detonate a conventional fission bomb, triggering a powerful secondary fusion device. The process likely used by North Korea, called “boosting,” involves an intermediate device that uses a hydrogen isotope to vastly increase the explosive power of an old-fashioned fission bomb, the experts told Reuters. Boosting is key to miniaturizing a thermonuclear weapon, and Pyongyang must master miniaturization in order to build a warhead small enough to fit atop a ballistic missile that can reach the United States or other distant targets, experts said. Siegfried Hecker, a former director of the Los Alamos National Laboratory, said the test “will certainly allow North Korea to increase the sophistication of its nuclear arsenal — specifically, to make the nuclear bombs smaller and lighter.” Admiral Bill Gortney, commander of U.S. Northern Command, has said he believes North Korea already has the ability to miniaturize nuclear weapons and place them on missiles that could reach the United States. North Korea is likely moving along the miniaturization path, developing a boosting process and reducing the amount of chemical explosive needed to compress the core, experts say. “On those two levels, they can achieve some real weight savings,” said Hans Kristensen, director of the Federation of American Scientists’ Nuclear Information Project. North Korea has shown off two versions of a ballistic missile that appear to be of a type that could reach the U.S. West Coast, but there is no evidence the missiles have been tested. North Korea has also tested a space-launch vehicle that could be modified to work as an intercontinental ballistic missile. It also has released a video of what it said was a successful test of a submarine-launched missile. (Reuters, “Nuke Test Didn’t Improve North Korea’s Technology, U.S. Says,” Reuters, January 19, 2016)

Carlin: “North Korea’s fourth nuclear test surprised a lot of people. That surprise unleashed, among other things, the notion that Kim Jong Un is erratic, an especially loose cannon with no advisers who might counsel restraint because they have all been kicked aside or died. If that were true, one might wonder about the North’s first two nuclear tests, which took place under Kim Jong Il. Presumably, if we accept the “erratic Kim Jong Un” thesis, the earlier tests took place because the old advisers thought nuclear tests were a good idea, and not because they feared contradicting the leader. But how would we know the difference? Consider for a moment: What if, as things seem to be headed, Beijing (although furious with the North for the test) is still not prepared to go along with seriously tough UN Security Council sanctions? How will Kim Jong Un look then? Like someone who reviewed the odds, looked at the history of Chinese reaction to the North’s first three tests, and decided the risk was worth taking? The argument that the North’s policies are hard to predict because Kim Jong Un is “erratic” is relatively easy to make but tough to defend if examined closely. To do so, first of all we would have to posit that “predicting” North Korean policies, i.e., knowing which way the ball was going to bounce at any particular time, was easier when Kim Jong Il was in charge, and before him, Kim Il Sung. After over 40 years in these rocky fields, I think I can say this has rarely been the case; the North Koreans have always been good at pulling fast ones. Even so, if plotted on a graph, over the long term the dots have traced recognizable, fundamental policy lines. In other words, though it’s tough to predict what will happen on any given day, it is possible to see trends over time. Over the past four years, under Kim Jong Un, that is still the case. The recent nuclear test was a surprise only insofar as we didn’t know exactly when it would occur. Barring something to stop it (and there were at least a few windows of opportunity that might have been explored since the third test in early 2013), there was going to be a fourth. The question was when. The answer, of course, became perfectly obvious a few minutes after 10:00 AM (Korea time) on January 6, 2016. How do those who think they see “erratic” moves from Kim Jong Un make their case? One way—well presented by Sam Kim in a January 12 article on Bloomberg News—is to attack the question from a relatively dormant flank, i.e., the quality and courage of the leader’s advisers. Before December 2011 when Kim Jong Il died, few outside observers looked at the issue of the leader’s advisers. If anything, the question was put in terms of the “inner circle,” most often short lists of those people who partied with the leader. Pondering what sort of advice they might have given was not usually considered. The problem is, we have never known who was, is, or will be actually “advising” the leadership and thus influencing policy. Perhaps it would be better to say we’ve known “next to nothing” because in the late 1990s, there was good reason to believe that Kang Sok Ju, then the First Vice Foreign Minister, in his own careful way, had at least some influence with Kim Jong Il in shaping policy toward the United States. Over the past two years, it has appeared that late Kim Yang Gon may have had somewhat similar influence (how similar is the interesting question) with Kim Jong Un. We can all pretty much agree that no regime is completely at the mercy of one man’s (or woman’s—no reason to leave out Catherine the Great or Elizabeth I here) fits of temperament or folly. History will support the notion that the loss of a key, trusted and wise adviser frequently ends up depriving a ruler of an important intellectual/emotional prop, at least for a time. The argument that Kim Jong Un lost something important when Kim Yang Gon died late last year is a useful hypothesis, and may even be a testable proposition. Still, Kim Yang Gon likely had able deputies. We can only wait and see whether and how policy changes toward South Korea with him off the stage. It is worth noting that the first Rodong Sinmun article on South Korea after Kim Yang Gon’s death showed no change in the North’s public approach toward Seoul—not a decisive indicator but one worth taking on board. It is also worth noting that monitored DPRK media have yet to react to President Park’s January 13 statement on the nuclear test, a statement that would otherwise seem to be a fat target for a rhetorical broadside from Pyongyang. Details, details. From late August through today, the North has been exceedingly careful in its public treatment of President Park Geun-hye. It virtually ignored the US-ROK summit in October, including an unusual US-ROK joint statement specifically focused on North Korea and warning Pyongyang of “significant measures” by the UN Security Council in case of a ballistic missile launch or nuclear test, and praising President Park’s “principled approach” to resolving last August’s DMZ incident. Its initial reaction to the stalemate in the North-South talks in mid-December was brief and mild. Moreover, DPRK media have virtually ignored the South’s resumption of DMZ loudspeaker broadcasts (the North, instead, has apparently decided to bury the South in a blizzard of its own balloon-delivered pamphlets). Similarly, there has been virtually no public reaction to the January 10 low-level flight of a US B-52 over Osan Airbase. (Contrary to what some Western press reports claimed, it was not acknowledged in a January 11 Rodong Sinmun article which said only that the US was “talking about projecting a nuclear strategic bomber squadron into South Korea.”) Why are such details important? Because they show months-long and carefully sustained calculation, not erratic swings. Since Kim Jong Un assumed power in December 2011, North Korea’s economic policy, its approach towards South Korea and even its approach toward the US have remained within the normal range of oscillation. The fact that the North’s policies—or at least, the public presentation of them—may have tacked over the course of several months does not make the decision-making behind them erratic. “Erratic,” if the word means anything, would be abrupt, almost inexplicable swings over short periods of time to significantly different policies. But we have not seen anything like that. In North Korean terms, “erratic” is not periods of calm punctuated by loud explosions. Nor is “erratic” to be found in the ups and downs of boilerplate propaganda. A question worth pondering is, how does one distinguish between “erratic” and “opportunistic,” or perhaps better put, “quick on their feet?” Consider: In summer of 1992, Kim Jong Il began planning withdrawal from Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT). When he finally pulled the trigger in March 1993, he was out in the field with his troops, expecting a military strike by the US. Only when his foreign ministry noted international calls for the North to return to the NPT did Pyongyang work out new plans. By April, Kim was engaged in a diplomatic ballet that would eventually lead to talks with the United States and an agreement to suspend the NPT withdrawal. Erratic? In the spring of 1994, the North withdrew spent fuel rods from its reactor at Yongbyon, knowing full well the extent of the crisis that would entail. Some of Kim Jong Il’s advisers urged him to do it, others counseled strongly against it. Kim went ahead. Erratic? Bull headed? Crazy like a fox? In early 2013, Pyongyang declared the nuclear issue off the table. Months later, the issue was put it back on the table in a June 16 statement from the National Defense Commission, a surprise even to some DPRK officials. Erratic? Calculated? On January 6, in the DPRK Government statement announcing the fourth nuclear test, Pyongyang declared that, “As long as the United States’ heinous hostile policy toward the DPRK is not eradicated, our suspension of nuclear development or nuclear abandonment cannot happen under any circumstance.” Although not unqualified, that formulation would seem to have taken off table the North’s previous offer from January 2015—to temporarily halt testing in return for a temporary suspension of US-ROK joint exercises. Nine days later, a Foreign Ministry spokesman’s statement said that the previous offer to stop the testing was still valid, possibly foreshadowed by a Rodong Sinmun article on the 11th that seemed to fiddle with the “as long as” formulation. Erratic? Tacking? Taking advantage of signs that Beijing was looking for reasons not to go along with Washington’s call for new, tough steps against the North? Perhaps rather than retreat to “erratic,” a better observation is that one should never say never when dealing with the North. The idea that Kim has gunned down all of his close advisers holds no water. If someone has information suggesting that former defense minister Hyon Yong Chol was a close or influential adviser to Kim, I’d welcome hearing it. As far as I can tell, he was neither. Jang Song Taek may have been influential for a while at the beginning of Kim’s reign, but he was probably under close watch, and was falling out of favor for nearly a year before he got the axe. Sam Kim mentions in his article that Choe Ryong-hae was sent down for “reeducation.” Kim Jong Il also banished people from the court for months at a time, too. Even Kang Sok Ju was sent down once or twice. They came back, as has Choe, who returned after only a few months, identified as a party secretary. Here are six hypotheses to mull for now, and test over the next several months: 1. After a year of signaling interest in engagement on the nuclear issue to the United States and receiving no positive response from the US, the fourth test was essentially an “attention getter” to bring Washington to the negotiation table in response to crisis as has been the case in the past. (Note: A key problem with this hypothesis is that if the North’s upcoming party congress is meant to be a flagship event to highlight economic progress, by conducting another nuclear test, Kim has all but ensured that the external atmosphere surrounding the congress is liable to be quite negative. This might suggest hypothesis #2.) 2. Kim Jong Un intends to get the markets back under close control, and will now have a good reason to do so in light of increased international pressure, sanctions, etc. (This is not my favorite explanation, but we can wait and see.) 3. The purpose of the byungjin policy was explicitly to build up the nation’s security through nuclear development to the point that it would be possible to divert resources from the military and concentrate on the economy. It is possible that Kim will use this test of a “hydrogen-bomb” to declare victory and state that North Korea has developed a sufficient deterrent to allow for shifting focus to the economy. In fact, a January 7 article in Chosun Sinbo—the newspaper of the pro-North Korean organization of Koreans in Japan which often carries articles directly reflecting views in Pyongyang—included this line. (Note: Taking this tack would potentially help to soften the blowback from China, as the Chinese are strong proponents of economic reform in North Korea.) 4. North Korea has concluded that negotiations with the US will not be possible in the waning months of the Obama Administration and in analyzing the current election season is bracing itself for a seemingly inevitable hostile policy from whoever succeeds the current president, from either party. Therefore, Pyongyang is setting the stage to make clear to whoever comes to office in January 2017 that it possesses a strong and credible nuclear threat, and must be taken seriously. 5. The test was planned for a particularly inopportune for the Chinese who are addressing their own issues, including softness in their economy and a major, multi-year reorganization of the armed forces. It also seems to have been carried out to demonstrate maximum independence from the Chinese. (Beijing says that, unlike in the past, it did not receive any advance notice of the test.) If the North wanted to stir several pots at once—Sino-US, Sino-ROK, and ROK-US— the test turns out to have been a good way to do it. 6. Give the devil his due: Dictators are erratic, and this decision was erratic but, if North Korea’s luck holds, not irretrievable. If there is anyone who knows how to make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear, it is the North Koreans. Is there a bottom line? Kim Jong Un is young, but not as inexperienced as many outsiders continue to think. He was raised in utter privilege, and is no doubt used to being obeyed. If he is still, to some extent, learning the ropes, he now has 5 or 6 (or even 7) years of experience under his belt at or near the top of the regime. He does not seem all that different from his father at the same age, who also had a reputation for impulsive behavior and wild living. (So, as a matter of fact, did the young Henry VIII). Whatever Kim Jong Un’s level of maturity or immaturity in the eyes of outsiders, and whatever the tonal shifts reflected in official North Korean statements over the past four years, the policies of the DPRK since he took power have not been noticeably out of line with what have been historic norms. This—in some sense the essential interests North Koreans believe they must defend—is what we have to deal with, difficult though it might be, and scaring ourselves with dancing shadows on the walls of a cave of our own making will, in the end, lead us nowhere good.” (Robert Carlin, “Never Say Never,” 38North, January 19, 2016)

DeTrani: North Koreans want to be accepted as a nuclear weapons state. They also want normal diplomatic relations with the United States. Kim Jong-un knows that if he wants a normal relationship with the U.S., with an immediate peace treaty similar to his current request, North Korea will have to dismantle all of its nuclear programs and eventually resolve issues related to the north’s human rights and illicit activities programs. There was positive movement on these issues with the September 2005 Joint Statement. Unfortunately, since 2008, there has been no meaningful dialogue with North Korea. And since 2008, North Korea has conducted numerous nuclear tests and missile launches. During a private discussion in Beijing during a 2004 plenary session of the Six Party talks, the North Korean deputy head of delegation said the United States should treat a nuclear North Korea as it treats a nuclear Pakistan, emphasizing that North Korea could become a good friend of the U.S. He was told the United States would never accept North Korea as a nuclear weapons state. During a series of private meetings leading up to the Sept. 19, 2005 joint statement on denuclearization, the North Korean head and deputy head of delegation said North Korea wanted a normal relationship with the United States. That, they said, was their leadership’s goal. They were told that comprehensive and verifiable denuclearization had to precede a bilateral discussion with the United States dealing with the human rights situation in North Korea and the government’s involvement in illicit activities. Only with significant progress on these issues would normalization of relations be possible. On that day, North Korea and the other five countries — the United States, China, South Korea, Japan and Russia — signed a joint statement committing North Korea to complete and verifiable dismantlement of all its nuclear programs in return for security assurances and economic and energy assistance. During the next two years, North Korea halted its plutonium program at Yongbyon and received significant amounts of food aid. Task forces were established to implement the joint statement. Progress came to an abrupt end in 2008 when North Korea refused to sign an agreement permitting nuclear monitors to go anywhere, anytime. Since then, Six Party negotiations have ceased and North Korea has conducted three nuclear tests (2009, 2013 and 2016), while claiming success at miniaturization. North Koreans have had numerous long- and medium-range missile launches, including putting a small satellite in orbit in April 2011. Reportedly, North Korea is close to launching a long-range, solid-fuel, mobile missile capable of reaching the United States. Last month, North Korea reportedly conducted a successful submarine missile test. Estimates of the number of nuclear weapons in North Korea vary, with the Institute for Science and International Security claiming that by 2020, North Korea could have up to 100 nuclear weapons. Permitting North Korea to retain its nuclear programs is a regional and global threat. It is also a proliferation threat if a nuclear weapon or fissile material is provided to a rogue state or terrorist non state actor. North Korea did in fact proliferate nuclear technology to Syria, providing assistance in the construction of a nuclear reactor at Al Kibar which, fortunately, was destroyed by Israel in 2007. Moreover, it is widely believed other countries in the region will seek their own nuclear weapons if North Korea retains and enhances its nuclear arsenal. The January 6 North Korean nuclear test probably was an upgraded atomic bomb using boosted fission, rather than a hydrogen bomb. But that in itself is significant. It’s also likely North Korea is pursuing a hydrogen bomb program. Given China’s close relationship and economic leverage with North Korea, Beijing could do more to moderate Kim Jong-un’s behavior. And given North Korea’s long-term interest in having a normal relationship with the United States, it’s also obvious that a dialogue with North Korea could possibly prove productive. Additional sanctions on North Korea will have some impact, but it will not prevent Kim Jong-un from pursuing his nuclear and missile programs. North Korea is not Iran. But with Iran, the United States and others spent considerable time negotiating an agreement that prevents Iran from fabricating a nuclear weapon for at least 15 years. North Korea has nuclear weapons and is aggressively increasing the number and quality of its nuclear weapons. Convening an exploratory meeting of the Six Party talks countries could prove productive. When Ambassador Stephen Bosworth and I met in Singapore last January with North Korean Deputy Foreign Minister Ri Yong Ho for two days of unofficial talks, Ri was personally amenable to an official meeting to discuss the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula. An unconditional official meeting with North Korea could prove productive.” (Joseph DeTrani, “A Feeler from Nuclear North Korea?” Washington Times, January 19, 2016)

Moon Chung-in: “South Korea and the international community have acted decisively to punish North Korea for its fourth nuclear test on January 6, which Pyongyang claimed was a powerful hydrogen bomb. The United States flew a B-52 bomber jet from its air base in Guam to South Korea, and the Korean and U.S. defense authorities are mulling the deployment of other “strategic assets,” like nuclear-powered submarines and carriers, during joint military exercises. South Korea resumed its propaganda broadcasts along the border. Washington and Seoul also plan to adopt a so-called 4D Operational Concept, preemptive strikes designed to detect, disrupt, destroy and defend against missile, nuclear, chemical and biological threats from North Korea, during their next military drills. The U.S. Congress is preparing a stronger set of sanctions against North Korea. These measures are necessary, but somehow everything seems all too familiar. The same scene has played out ever since Pyongyang detonated its first nuclear device in October 2006. But what have we today? Powerful countries like the United States, China and South Korea can’t even deal with a single isolated country. Looking back on the trajectory of the past two decades, the U.S. policy on North Korea was utterly unsuccessful, and yet we followed it blindly. The biggest blunder lies in our lack of intelligence. Worse than failing to detect the signs of another nuclear test, our allies did not possess up-to-date information concerning North Korea’s advancements in weapons technology, the strategic intentions of the regime’s leaders or their political ambitions. Authorities and experts underestimated the country’s nuclear capacity and the resources it had to maintain its nuclear campaign alongside economic development. It was simply naive and wishful thinking that the regime would inevitably collapse. Then there was the “all-or-nothing” principle in dialogues with Pyongyang. Seoul and Washington have maintained that there be “complete, verifiable, irreversible dismantlement” of nuclear activity in North Korea for any significant improvement in aid or ties to occur. Few argue that this should be the ultimate goal. But it should not serve as a universal guideline in all talks. We first need to access the nuclear facilities in North Korea to discuss what needs to be eliminated and then work toward complete dismantlement to establish a lasting peace framework on the Korean Peninsula to make North Korea an accepted member of the international community. We should heed what Pyongyang proposed on January 9, 2015, when it said it was willing to cease nuclear tests, and even any activity in nuclear materials, if Washington halted joint military exercises with Seoul. But the U.S. Department of Defense flatly ignored that proposal. Washington claimed Pyongyang had no right to bargain when it failed to honor past agreements. Given North Korea’s track record, the U.S. position is understandable. President Barack Obama has been referred to as a realist in foreign policy, applying soft power and rapprochement toward its enemy states, though North Korea is strangely an exception.

Overestimating Beijing’s role and influence over the North has also made things worse. Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying snorted at Washington’s indication that Beijing was to blame for failing to take Pyongyang to task. “The key to solving the [North Korean nuclear] problem is not China,” she said, hinting it was Washington that had aggravated the situation with its isolationist policy. A few hawkish officials in Beijing believe Washington was intentionally neglecting the North Korean nuclear issue to rein in China’s influence on the global stage. That’s why we can’t expect strong and proactive engagement from Beijing in containing North Korea’s nuclear campaign. There is one way out of this multiple conundrum. We must shake ourselves from the complacency we built toward the North Korean nuclear program over the decades. North Korea has long been trained and has become accustomed to hardship in return for its nuclear assets, and it will likely stand firm in the face of outside pressure and sanctions.” However, it won’t dare use it. A nuclear provocation will inevitably be apocalyptic for both Koreas. Leaving the option open for dialogue and negotiation, with some pressure, will be the only realistic solution. We must accept North Korea’s realities and try to steer it toward an incremental and practical denuclearization process with the help of China and Russia. Time is not on our side. Our leadership must come up with an entirely new approach toward North Korea. (Moon Chung-in, “Why No One Takes Responsibility,” JoongAng Ilbo, January 19, 2016)


1/20/16:
The United States and its allies will bolster sanctions and go on the defensive against North Korea in ways that China may not like if Beijing fails to lend greater support to efforts to curb the North’s nuclear ambitions, a top American diplomat said in Seoul. Deputy Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken made the warning a day before he planned to meet with Chinese officials in Beijing to pressure them to use their economic leverage over North Korea to force it to end its nuclear weapons program. “I think what we will be talking to China about is that we will, both in terms of sanctions and in terms of our defense postures, have to take additional steps in order to use the leverage we have in order to defend ourselves and our allies if North Korea doesn’t change its behavior,” Blinken said in an interview. Some of those steps “won’t be directed at China, but China probably won’t like them,” he said. Blinken refused to go into detail. But he said that “everything is on the table,” including so-called secondary sanctions, of the type the United States most recently used against Iran, which would target third-party countries doing business with North Korea. In its first statement since the nuclear test, North Korea’s Foreign Ministry reiterated on Friday that it would settle American concerns about its nuclear weapons only if Washington first signed a peace treaty to end its “hostile policy” toward the North, which it described as “the root cause of all problems.” The 1950-53 Korean War was halted in a cease-fire, leaving the peninsula technically still at war. Blinken said the North Korean demand was “a total nonstarter” that violated the 2005 agreement in which North Korea, China, the United States, Japan, Russia and South Korea agreed to a peace treaty on the Korean Peninsula, but only in return for the North’s verifiable denuclearization. “Now, North Korea says it wants a peace treaty, and it won’t even talk about the nuclear program. It’s impossible,” he said, adding that Washington would start dialogue only if the North showed that it was prepared for “credible and authentic talks about denuclearization.” (Choe Sang-hun, “U.S. Presses China to Curb Ally’s Nuclear Program,” New York Times, January 21, 2016, p. A-6)

A top North Korean military official, thought to be behind the North’s deadly attacks on South Korea in 2010, is sure to have replaced Kim Yang-gon, who died in a car accident in December, sources said. General Kim Yong-chol, 70, who leads the North’s reconnaissance bureau, has been recently appointed as the party secretary handling inter-Korean affairs, also doubling as the head of the United Front Department (UFD) at the ruling party, the sources said. “It is certain that General Kim has replaced the dead official,” said a source familiar with North Korean affairs. “He assumed the posts of the head of the UFD as well as party secretary.” If confirmed, it is a rare case that a North Korean military official has become a secretary of the Workers’ Party of Korea. General Kim, known as a hardliner, is believed to have orchestrated Pyongyang’s two deadly attacks on the South in 2010 — the sinking of the Cheonan warship and the shelling of Yeonpyeong Island. The two attacks killed a total of 50 South Koreans, including two civilians. He is also known for having masterminded the planting of land mines across the inter-Korean border that severely injured two South Korean staff sergeants in August last year. Since 2009, Kim has led the North’s Reconnaissance General Bureau tasked with intelligence operations in foreign countries and cyberwarfare. The bureau is known to be behind Pyongyang’s alleged cyberattack on Sony Pictures Entertainment in 2014. “If General Kim is confirmed to have been appointed as a party secretary on inter-Korean affairs, there is the high possibility that he would not serve as the head of the North’s Reconnaissance General Bureau any longer,” another source said. The Unification Ministry declined to confirm Kim’s nomination. “It is too premature to verify it,” Jeong Joon-hee, a ministry spokesman, told a regular press briefing. (Yonhap, “Top N.K. Official Becomes Point Man on Inter-Korean Affairs: Sources,” January 20, 2016)

South Korea’s Red Cross said its programs for families separated by the 1950-53 Korean War and humanitarian aid to North Korea now face a murky prospect as North Korea’s fourth nuclear test froze ties between the two countries. The Red Cross has made video messages of about 10,000 separated family members to be possibly delivered to their relatives in North Korea, but whether they can be delivered remains uncertain due to the strained inter-Korean ties following the North’s nuclear test on January 6, it said. Seoul has also proposed to Pyongyang that the two Koreas exchange a list of how many separated family members from each side want to meet with their relatives living across the border. There are about 66,000 separated family members in South Korea, half of which have expressed a wish to confirm the fate of their relatives living in the North. “(Due to the North’s nuclear test), there has been no progress over our projects on separated families and humanitarian assistance with North Korea,” a Red Cross official said. South Korea is seeking to hold the family reunions on a regular basis, calling on the North to allow such families to exchange letters. But Pyongyang maintains a lukewarm stance. (Yonhap, “Red Cross’ Projects with Pyongyang Suspended over Nuke Test,” Korea Herald, January 20, 2016)


1/21/16:
The South Korean government said it would not allow any direct civilian exchanges with North Korea for the time being, a punitive step against Pyongyang for its fourth nuclear test. It’s time to concentrate efforts on imposing effective sanctions on the North, said an official at the Unification Ministry that handles Seoul-Pyongyang relations. In the wake of the North’s nuclear test, its national commission on reconciliation reportedly sent a fax message to several South Korean humanitarian and religious groups proposing meetings in China on their projects this year. “North Korea offered consultations on projects under way (by some South Korean aid groups),” the ministry official told reporters. He made clear the government’s disapproval of any direct inter-Korean meeting at a time when the international community is discussing tougher sanctions on Pyongyang. The inter-Korean relationship should “not be business as usual,” he said, adding the North’s suggestion is like “asking for shaking hands and being on good terms after a slap in the face.” (Korea Times, “Inter-Korean Exchanges Frozen after Nuke Test,” January 21, 2016)


1/22/16:
KCNA: “According to information available from a relevant institution, Warmbier Otto Frederick, student of Virginia University of the U.S., was arrested while perpetrating a hostile act against the DPRK after entering it under the guise of tourist for the purpose of bringing down the foundation of its single-minded unity at the tacit connivance of the U.S. government and under its manipulation. He is now under investigation.” (KCNA, “American Arrested for His Hostile Act against DPRK,” January 22, 2016) Otto Warmbier, the American university student being held by North Korea, was detained before boarding his flight to China over an unspecified incident that had taken place earlier in the trip at his hotel, his travel company told Reuters on January 23. Charlotte Guttridge, a tour leader at Young Pioneer Tours and the only outside witness to Warmbier’s detention, said the 21-year-old University of Virginia student was not with other tourists when the events that appear to have prompted his arrest occurred. “What happened, happened at the hotel and my belief is that Otto kept it to himself out of hope it might go unnoticed,” Guttridge told Reuters. Guttridge and colleagues at Young Pioneer Tours declined to share further details of exactly what had taken place at the Yanggakdo International Hotel, citing the safety of their client. Warmbier had been staying when the incident that led to his arrest occurred. China-based Young Pioneer Tours is a North Korea travel specialist that describes itself on its website as “an adventure tour operator that provides ‘budget tours to destinations your mother would rather you stayed away from.'” During his five-day New Year’s tour of North Korea, staff at Young Pioneer Tours said Warmbier had acted normally, and was keen to see daily life in one of the world’s most isolated countries, which is visited by around 6,000 Western tourists a year. Ten other U.S. citizens were on the tour. “Throughout the trip, Otto behaved as a typical tourist — taking pictures, enjoying himself. We had no indication that anything untoward had happened until the airport,” Guttridge said. When Warmbier’s group reached the airport, he appeared to have been purposefully delayed at immigration, Troy Collings, director of Young Pioneer Tours, told Reuters. As the tourists checked-in at the gleaming, recently-renovated terminal, Warmbier was taken aside by two airport officials and escorted into a small immigration room behind a wooden door to one side of the check-in area. “He was not dragged away and he wasn’t yelled at,” Guttridge said. As Guttridge waited for Warmbier to come out of the room, she instructed the rest of her tour group to board the North Korean Air Koryo flight bound for Beijing. “When it became clear that he wasn’t coming, I had to board the flight before it departed,” said Guttridge, who still had colleagues in Pyongyang with another group of tourists. “I was the last to board the flight.” As the Russian-made Tupolev airliner prepared to leave the terminal, an airport official boarded the plane and told Guttridge that Warmbier had been “taken to hospital.” Soon after, a North Korean contact passed on a message concerning Warmbier’s detention to Young Pioneer Tours founder Gareth Johnson, who was in Pyongyang with a separate group due to catch a train to the Chinese border. “I stayed back when I heard Otto had been detained,” Johnson told Reuters. “It was an automatic response. I wanted to try and work out what the situation was and it was my hope that I would at least be able to speak with him.” Johnson said his company was in contact with Warmbier’s family, U.S. officials and the Swedish Embassy in Pyongyang, which represents U.S. interests in North Korea. Staff at the tour operator said as far as they knew Warmbier had not been in possession of any religious or political literature. (James Pearson, “U.S. Student Detained North Korea ‘over Hotel Incident,’” Reuters, January 23, 2016) Gov. John Kasich of Ohio has asked former Gov. Bill Richardson of New Mexico to help in the effort to free Warmbier, Kasich’s spokesman said February 12. Richardson confirmed the request and said he had begun making inquiries about the 21-year-old college student. The spokesman for Kasich, Rob Nichols, said the contact with Richardson was part of a broader effort by the Ohio governor to take action on behalf of Warmbier, who was arrested January 2 as he was completing an organized tour of North Korea. Nichols said Kasich, a Republican presidential candidate, also had spoken with Warmbier’s parents and with officials at the White House. (Rick Gladstone, “Veteran Negotiator Aids Effort to Free Student in North Korea,” New York Times, February 13, 2016) An American student held in North Korea since early January was detained for trying to steal a propaganda slogan from his Pyongyang hotel and has confessed to “severe crimes” against the state, the North’s official media said on October 29. Otto Warmbier, 21, a student at the University of Virginia, was detained before boarding his flight to China over an unspecified incident at his hotel, his tour agency told Reuters in January. “I committed the crime of taking out a political slogan from the staff-only area of the Yanggakdo International Hotel,” KCNA quoted Warmbier as telling media in Pyongyang. CNN showed video of a sobbing Warmbier saying: “I have made the worst mistake of my life, but please act to save me.” Warmbier said a “deaconess” had offered him a used car worth $10,000 if he could present a U.S. church with the slogan as a “trophy” from North Korea, KCNA said. The acquaintance also said the church would pay his mother $200,000 if he was detained by the North and did not return, KCNA quoted Warmbier as saying. “My crime is very severe and pre-planned,” Warmbier was quoted as saying, adding that he was impressed by North Korea’s “humanitarian treatment of severe criminals like myself.” (James Pearson and Jack Kim, “North Korea Says Detained U.S. Student Confessed to Stealing Political Slogan,” Reuters, February 29, 2016)

President Park Geun-hye proposed that South Korea hold talks with the United States, China and other regional partners to discuss ways to denuclearize North Korea. “We should find various and creative approaches, including attempting to hold five-way talks excluding North Korea,” Park said in a meeting with officials on how to deal with North Korea. The comments represent growing doubts about the effectiveness of the nuclear talks, which showed no signs of resumption. (Yonhap, “Park Proposes Five-Nation Talks over Pyongyang,” January 22, 2016)

China urged all relevant countries to make joint efforts to resume long-stalled nuclear talks on ending North Korea’s nuclear programs as South Korea floated the idea of holding talks without North Korea. China’s Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei called for the “relevant parties” to “restart the six-party talks at an early date move forward the goal of denuclearization and ensure long-term stability and development of the (Korean) peninsula.” Hong said, “Considering the current situation on the Korean Peninsula, dialogue and negotiation are still the fundamental way to resolve the Korean nuclear issue.” The comments came hours after South Korean President Park Geun-hye proposed that the five countries hold a meeting to press Pyongyang to abandon nuclear programs as she questioned the effectiveness of the six-nation nuclear talks. (Yonhap, “China Calls for Swift Restart of Nuclear Talks with North Korea,” January 22, 2016)

South Korea’s point man on inter-Korean affairs made it clear the government is not considering shutting down a joint industrial complex in North Korea or withdraw South Koreans from there despite the North’s nuclear test. “The government is seeking to focus on how to operate the Kaesong Industrial Complex in the North in a stable manner,” Unification Minister Hong Yong-pyro said in a press briefing. “But as President Park Geun-hye earlier said, how the situation over the complex develops will depend on North Korea,” Hong said, leaving the door open for further restrictive measures. A total of 124 South Korean firms operate at the factory zone, employing about 54,000 North Korean workers to produce labor-intensive products. (Yonhap, “S. Korea Not Considering Closure of Kaesong Complex,” January 22, 2016)

Harsh human rights conditions in North Korea have barely changed and its leader, Kim Jong Un, should be held criminally responsible, the top U.N. envoy on North Korea said. Mazrui Darusman said in Tokyo that his repeated requests to visit North Korea during his six years as the U.N. special rapporteur have never been accepted. “In addition to continuing political pressure to exhort the DPRK to improve human rights, it is also now imperative to pursue criminal responsibility of the DPRK leadership,” he said. He said various institutions, civil groups and governments, as well as the United Nations, are collecting information “to identify the perpetrators, and to trace all these actions (of abuse) to the highest leadership in the country.” Judicial proceedings have not started and he declined to identify the perpetrators. “There is a need to build up a strong case so that accountability is not compromised,” he said. “When the moment comes, the judicial processes are made possible.” Darusman was in Japan to assess North Korean human rights developments. He talked with Japanese police and legal experts, as well as relatives of Japanese citizens abducted by North Korea decades ago. North Korean Ambassador-at-large Ri Hung Sik said in November that he had met Darusman once, but “we don’t see any benefits” in talking to him again because “he has been talking of regime change whenever he’s abroad.” (Associated Press, “Criminal Case Building against N. Korea’s Kim, Says U.N. Human Rights Envoy,” Asahi Shimbun, January 23, 2016)


1/24/16:
Senior DoS Official: “Q: Sure. Hi, this is Carol Morello from the Washington Post. I think several of us want to know if the Secretary’s going to be discussing the UVA student who was arrested there recently, and if you think you can make any progress on getting him freed. SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: Well, the — first of all, the welfare of American citizens is an absolute top priority for Secretary Kerry, and the Secretary and the State Department team leave no stone unturned. The fact that American citizens are detained in North Korea is, of course, troubling. The principal vehicle for our efforts to ascertain the well-being of the American citizens and to secure their early release is through our protecting power, the Swedes, in Pyongyang. We also convey our concerns directly to the North Koreans. But certainly, we would relish help from all quarters. I think that the preeminent issue, of course, to discuss with the Chinese vis-a-vis the DPRK is the question of how China, in tandem with international partners and on a bilateral basis — or I should say perhaps a unilateral basis — can convince the DPRK to reverse course, to come on into compliance with its international obligations and its own commitments, and to be in the process of rolling back its nuclear and its missile program. The Secretary has made no secret either to the Chinese or to you, the media, of his conviction that there is much more that China can do by way of applying leverage, building on the discussions that Tony Blinken had. I know that he’s going to be looking for practical and effective steps on the part of the Chinese. Q: Hi, it’s Elise Labott from CNN. Thanks for doing the call. Just to follow up on that, given you said — given Tony Blinken’s meetings over there and the fact that you have had, as you say, very substantive discussions by this team, I’m wondering — the Secretary’s going to be looking for practical ways. But what is your impression of what the Chinese are prepared to do? Do you have a sense that you’re going into these meetings with a united front about how to tackle it, or do you still think that the Secretary is going to need to do some more convincing on China to put some serious pressure on North Korea? SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: …It’s still early days in terms of the discussions and negotiations in New York among the Security Council members as to what the suite of sanctions and other measures in a UN Security Council resolution will look like, and I expect that set of negotiations to play out for a little longer. The Secretary and his Chinese counterparts will compare notes on where that stands and what we can do by the Security Council. But there is also the issue of what China on a unilateral basis, as North Korea’s lifeline, as North Korea’s patron, will choose to do, both to cut off avenues of proliferation and retard North Korea’s ability to gain the wherewithal to advance its nuclear and its missile programs. But also, and perhaps most importantly, to send an unmistakable message to Kim Jong-un that his strategy is meeting with real resistance from China. In the past, the Chinese have often quietly found ways to send a message that a North Korean leader simply couldn’t afford to overlook. The fact that despite China’s friendly overtures to the DPRK, Kim Jong-un turned around and did the thing that he knew the Chinese most objected to — a nuclear test — certainly tells me that that message hasn’t yet gotten through. Now, it is very important to present a united front to the DPRK, but that united front has to be a firm one, not a flaccid one. Now, the Secretary, of course, based on his consultations with his Japanese and Korean foreign minister counterparts, based on the conversations that President Obama has had with Prime Minister Abe and President Park, and very importantly, the in-depth, substantive discussions that Deputy Secretary Blinken led with his Japanese and Korean counterparts in the trilateral consultations that he held a week ago in Tokyo. We come into the conversation with the Chinese with a united front from that perspective. We want the Chinese to line up with Seoul, with Washington, with Tokyo in convincing the DPRK that there is a peaceful way forward which comes with compliance with the — to the international Security Council resolutions, but that continuing down the road of provocations is a dead-end street. … Q: Hi [Senior State Department Official], this is David Brunnstrom from Reuters. I wanted — I could just ask you to expand a bit on when you talked about the need to cut off avenues of proliferation. Do you think that those avenues are still open via China? And on Laos and Cambodia, how concerned are you about ASEAN unity on the South China Sea? And is there any concern that the Lao presidency could be as problematic on that issue as the Cambodian one was? SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: Well, on the first point, I take the Chinese at their word in — when they say that they are doing a great deal to prevent illegal activities and proliferation from the DPRK via Chinese soil, Chinese ports, Chinese banks, and Chinese companies. Nevertheless, North Korea is still engaged in illicit and proliferation activities. They have very few avenues for conducting business with the international community that don’t in some fashion involve transiting China. And so despite the determination and efforts of the Chinese Government, clearly there is more that they can do. And I certainly hope that in the aftermath of this latest nuclear test that the Chinese are examining those conduits and avenues and looking for ways to intercept and restrict North Korean proliferation activities. … Q: Oh. Hi, it’s Felicia Schwartz from The Wall Street Journal. Thanks for doing this. I had a quick question. I might have misheard you, but just going back to the student — the UVA student, you said — did you say that you raised his case directly with the North Koreans or the Chinese did or the Swedes? OFFICIAL: Well, what I said is the primary vehicle for us to engage the DPRK on the topic of any American citizen’s welfare is through the Swedes, who maintain an embassy in Pyongyang and who are our protecting power. But I’m not going to get into the specifics of any particular American citizen case. The U.S. does also have the ability to communicate directly with the North Koreans, and typically, we do so in an effort to ensure that our citizens are being well treated and to encourage their prompt release. … Q: Hi, it’s Elise. I was just wondering, when you talk about all the things you and China are going to talk about on North Korea, I mean, that’s — a lot of that seems like kind of more punitive and pressure, but the Chinese have always maintained that the North Koreans are looking for you to get back to the table. And I’m just wondering, is there any thought to some kind of new approach at North Korea that you’ll be discussing in China in terms of trying to get talks together — the Six-Party Talks or whatever you want to call them? SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: Well, what we’re looking for is negotiations under the Six-Party framework and based on the Six-Party joint statement of 2005. That’s what we’ve been pursuing consistently through the entire Obama Administration. The — it’s the North Koreans who have walked away, it’s the North Koreans who have shut the door, and it’s the North Koreans who keep saying no to proposals from all quarters that we negotiate, as they committed to, to eliminate their nuclear missile program. Because that’s what opens the door to our ability to work with them to normalize relations, to provide economic assistance, to replace the armistice with a successor peace arrangement. We’ve — we had the negotiations to reach an agreement on how to proceed, and the North Koreans have walked away from it. We want them to walk back, and it’s both pressure and incontrovertible evidence that the international community isn’t going to change its mind and decide that we’re good with a nuclear North Korea. That’s not going to happen and the Chinese don’t want it either. Now, we don’t think that talking about other topics is a soporific that pacifies North Korea and keeps them calm. We believe that unless and until we’re dealing directly with the problem itself — North Korea’s illegal pursuit of nuclear-armed missiles — that we’re not making headway. We want to make headway. We want to make headway through negotiations. And the sooner that North Korea’s disabused of the view that it can change the subject and get away with sustaining a nuclear program, the sooner and the safer Northeast Asia will be.” (Senior State Department Official, Special Briefing via Teleconference, Preview of Secretary Kerry’s Travel to Vientiane, Phnom Penh, and Beijing, January 24, 2016)


1/25/16:
Defense Minister Han Min-koo said South Korea needs to consider the deployment of the U.S. advanced defense system THAAD, reflecting growing security threats from North Korea’s emerging nuclear and missile capabilities. “Speaking from the military’s perspective, there’s enough need to review it because our (defense) capabilities are limited,” the defense minister said during his appearance in a news program by MBC. “The issue of THAAD should be considered from the defense and security standpoints,” Han noted. (Yonhap, “Defense Minister Says THAAD Deployment Needs Consideration,” January 25, 2016)


1/26/16:
DPRK Institute for Disarmament and Peace: “…In his New Year Address this year, His Excellency Mr. Kim Jong Un, has put forward the idea of independence in inter-Korean relations and the reunification issues in line with the nation’s desire and demand; the idea of safeguarding peace and security by eliminating the dangers of war on the Korean Peninsula; and the idea of adding value to the north-south joint declarations and implementing them. … Inter-Korean relations and the reunification issues should, by all means, be resolved by efforts of the Korean nation itself in accordance with the independent will and demand of the nation true to the principles of By Our Nation Itself. This is the core idea of independent reunification clarified by His Excellency Mr. Kim Jong Un in his 2016 New Year Address. On the contrary, the current south Korean authorities are pursuing “system unification” which is, in essence, an idea to cooperate with foreign forces to eliminate the north’s system and to impose its own ideology and system on the north. German-style reunification mode is what the current south Korean authorities are most fascinated by and trying to copy. The capitalist West Germany had degenerated the former socialist East Germany and enforced its idea and system over the latter. Likewise, the south Korean authorities aim to change the color of the DPRK by luring it to “reform” and “opening” and ultimately conquering the latter. In September 2014, the south Korean authorities, together with Germany, established a governmental consultative body and are engaged in a full-scale study on the experiences of German reunification. Given the fact that no one would be willing to surrender or compromise its own system, “system unification” will only invite distrust and confrontation between the north and the south. South Korea’s “system unification” ultimately aims at creating a pro-U.S. “unified state” that submits to the U.S. strategy for domination over northeast Asia by extending influence of the U.S. onto the whole Korean peninsula. Such “system unification” presupposes the permanent stationing of the U.S. troops, the very culprit of national division, on the Korean Peninsula and provision of its nuclear umbrella. Recently, there have been assertions by the U.S. conservative security experts that a reunified Korean Peninsula should continue to be under the U.S. nuclear umbrella and contain the surrounding countries with dependence on the U.S. These assertions prove that this topic is under discussion between the U.S. and south Korea. The south Korean authorities are trying to compromise the strategic interests of the U.S. and the regional countries by “promising the moon” that the U.S. forces would not move forward above the 38th parallel even after “unification” backed by the U.S. with its nuclear umbrella as the main pillar. In this way, the south is sticking to the “unification diplomacy” to obtain support for the south-led “unification.” However, the U.S., the master of south Korea, is seeking to bind south Korea to U.S.-Japan-south Korea trilateral military alliance and based on this, stifle the DPRK and further contain the surrounding countries who are its strategic rivals. All in all, unification pursued by both the U.S. and south Korea is aimed at stretching the nuclear umbrella of the U.S. over the whole Korean Peninsula and realizing U.S. dominance over the northeast Asia. In respect of the security balance in the northeast Asia, this will remove the buffer zone that prevents a physical collision between the U.S. and the regional countries and eventually turn the Korean Peninsula into a direct nuclear frontline of the big powers. The U.S. deceived the world when it had promised that the NATO would not be expanded further east if the former Soviet Union supported German reunification. The strategic deception is being replayed by the U.S. in the northeast Asia. It is natural that the regional countries are vigilant about the “unification diplomacy” of south Korea for its instrumental role of the U.S. strategy. The DPRK’s idea of independent reunification is to establish a just reunified state that checks the U.S. aggressive strategy to dominate Asia and that ensures the strategic interests of the regional countries in a balanced way with its self-defensive nuclear deterrent. The self-defensive nuclear deterrent of the DPRK serves as a solid guarantee for ensuring security balance in the region. It frustrates south Korea’s wild attempt for “system unification” backed by the U.S. nuclear umbrella and thus assures peaceful reunification of the peninsula based on the co-existence of the two systems. The fundamental condition for Korean reunification is to prevent danger of war and ensure peace and security on the peninsula. Today, the Korean Peninsula is under the situation of neither war nor peace. It is now at the crossroad of life or death which leads either to durable and lasting peace through peace treaty or to crucial war. It is self-evident that reunification cannot be achieved under the existing armistice. The formula of reunification will decide war or peace on the Korean Peninsula. If the formula of reunification is set for a peaceful reunification based on co-existence of two systems in the north and the south, peace treaty is the answer. However, if the formula of reunification is set for “system unification” by one side, it comes to a conclusion that a war is inevitable. The DPRK’s reunification proposal is to eliminate the danger of war and safeguard peace and security on the Korean Peninsula by concluding a peace treaty so as to achieve peaceful reunification. … The DPRK, which was non-nuclear state in 1970s, has today risen up to a dignified nuclear state. This brought a change in the position of the parties concerned in the peace treaty from a non-nuclear state versus a nuclear state to a nuclear state versus a nuclear state. What remains unchanged is the invariable stand of the DPRK to terminate the armistice and ensure an environment essential for peaceful reunification of Korea. To create a favorable environment and conditions for a peace treaty, in January 2015 the DPRK proposed a moratorium on nuclear testing in return for the U.S. suspension of joint military exercises. Later in August last year, still for the favorable environment for independent reunification, the DPRK straightened out the dangerous touch-and-go situation and proposed, once again, the conclusion of peace treaty. However, the U.S. responded to these proposals with enforcement of joint military exercises and commitment of aircraft carrier flotilla into the waters of the Korean peninsula. At the same time, the south Korean authorities are trying to secure its military predominance over the DPRK backed by the U.S. military and thus pursue the south-led “unification.” Recently the south Korean authorities and the U.S. have endorsed the 4D operation plan for preemptive strike against the DPRK and attempt to translate it into action from coming February. The DPRK was left with no other choice but to strengthen its nuclear deterrent both in quality and quantity to cope with the U.S.’s ever-growing hostile maneuvers towards the DPRK. The DPRK succeeded in the test of its first hydrogen bomb early this year. … It is the consistent stand of the DPRK that the south is its main counterpart for national reunification. The DPRK holds that reunification should be promoted by respecting the different ideologies and systems existing in the north and the south based on the principle of co-existence and co-prosperity. Nevertheless, the south Korean authorities, instead of seeking mutually-agreeable formula of reunification, totally deny the past historical inter-Korean agreements and tour foreign countries to solicit their support for the reunification issue, the internal affairs of the Korean nation. This is a dangerous war-inviting act that attempts to extend their system over the other side while designating the main counterpart for reunification as an enemy. It has been over 70 years since the Korean Peninsula was liberated from the Japanese colonial rule. Yet, south Korea remains under the control of U.S. military forces, which restricts them from any right to command its own military forces and to make decisions between war and peace. On the contrary, the DPRK has risen up to a politico-ideological power and a nuclear power with defensive H-bomb and is capable of producing and launching satellites on its own. The DPRK is fully exercising its sovereignty with no worries to read others’ expression. Still, the DPRK has no intention and has never intended to force its system on the south at all. … It is the very intention of the DPRK to accelerate national reunification in conformity with the three principles for national reunification which were agreed upon by the north and the south at the very beginning of inter-Korean reunification dialogues and the historical June 15 and October 4 declarations agreed upon at the summit level. The agreement and declarations have enjoyed unanimous appraisal and welcome from the international community including the UN as well as the entire Korean nation. Therefore, respecting the joint agreements and realizing reunification based on them is the very convincing and proper reunification formula that can be accepted by both sides and welcomed by the world. The main actors for national reunification are the north and the south. They are the ones that have the most direct interests in reunification and the ones that have the right to decide the mode of reunification. The south Korean authorities, ignoring the clear-cut fact, are trying to implicate foreign forces in the reunification process, the nation’s internal issue. This is nothing but a disgraceful betrayal of the nation and the country that fans inter-Korean distrust and confrontation. … Today, with regards to Korean reunification issue, the surrounding countries maintain clear position that they support independent reunification of Korea and the formula of reunification agreed upon by both the north and the south. Those countries maintain such position since Korean reunification based on mutual agreements ensures solid guarantee for peaceful cooperation in the region while not disrupting the status quo on the Korean peninsula and thus fully meets the strategic interests of the surrounding countries. The surrounding countries are kindly advised to know what roles they should play for Korean reunification and regional peace.” (Choe Un Ju, “The Fundamental Principles of Korean Reunification,” DPRK Institute of Disarmament and Peace,” January 26, 2016)


1/27/16:
Secretary of State John Kerry warned China that North Korea was moving ahead with an effort to manufacture a nuclear weapon small enough to fit atop a long-range missile that could reach American shores, and said the United States “will do what is necessary to protect the people of our country.” Kerry’s statement came during a one-day stop in Beijing to see the country’s leadership, during which he warned that if China failed to do more to curb North Korea’s enhanced nuclear capacity, Washington would take steps that Chinese leaders have strongly opposed, including deploying defense systems to protect American allies in Asia. “This is a threat the United States must take extremely seriously,” Kerry said of North Korea’s growing nuclear arsenal and its missile capability at a news conference with the Chinese foreign minister, Wang Yi. “The United States will take all necessary steps to protect our people and allies. We don’t want to heighten security tensions. But we won’t walk away from any options.” The United States has been concerned for half a decade about when North Korea will succeed in the difficult task of mating a nuclear weapon to an accurate missile — and it has already taken the North more time than American intelligence agencies once estimated. Almost exactly five years ago this month, Robert M. Gates, then the secretary of defense, on a similar trip to Beijing, warned his Chinese counterparts that he believed the North was within five years of reaching that milestone. To date they have not — it is unclear whether the North Koreans have designed a warhead small enough to fit atop the missile and able to withstand the stresses of atmospheric re-entry — and this week American officials would not say how far they believe the North is from that goal. In interviews, American officials say Kerry made the case that the nuclear and missile threat was “a direct threat to the U.S.,” a way of explaining to the Chinese why North Korea’s fourth nuclear test cannot be shrugged off as merely symbolic. Yet the Chinese have been resisting broad new sanctions against Pyongyang, just as they stripped such sanctions out of a United Nations resolution in 2013, after the North’s last nuclear test. Instead, the officials say, Beijing is pressing for targeted sanctions against individuals in the North Korean nuclear complex, which are unlikely to have serious repercussions. Kerry adopted the tough tone after nearly five hours of talks with Wang that were dominated by North Korea and what the United States and China, a treaty ally of the North, should do in the aftermath of the latest nuclear test. Kerry was referring to the deployment of a missile defense system to South Korea that has been under discussion for some time but that the South, an American ally, has resisted because of China’s opposition. The system is called Terminal High Altitude Area Defense, or THAAD; China views it as a threat to its own capabilities in the Pacific. But after the North Korean test, the South’s president, Park Geun-hye, said she would consider accepting the missile system, as the United States has long insisted. China agreed during the talks on Wednesday to approve some form of new United Nations sanctions against the North, but one American official said “that’s different from sanctions that hurt.” A draft of new sanctions was sent to China about 10 days ago, but by the time Kerry arrived in Beijing, China had not responded in substance, American officials said. Negotiations on their content will proceed in the coming days, Wang said. But these new sanctions “must not provoke new tensions,” he added. Suggesting that the Obama administration was evincing a little too much concern about the North Korean nuclear test, and that Washington’s attention would soon drift away, Wang said China “will not be swayed by specific events or the temporary mood of the moment.” Wang stuck to a basic theme, that China’s preference is the reconvening of talks on North Korea. “Sanctions are not an end in themselves,” he said. Kerry, however, made clear that Washington’s position was that China, North Korea’s biggest trading partner, needed to use its leverage and what he called its “connections” with the country to pressure it to give up its nuclear arsenal. The Americans would like China to curb exports of oil, including aviation fuel, that help keep the bare-bones North Korean economy afloat. It has also asked China to crack down on its banks and businesses that give the North access to foreign exchange. A bill calling for sanctions against Chinese entities that help North Korea in its military programs, criminal activities and money laundering recently passed with strong support in the House of Representatives. As part of his attempt to persuade Beijing, Kerry used the example of the recent Iran deal: The restrictions on Iran’s banks and financial institutions to conduct transactions abroad helped bring that country to the negotiating table over its nuclear program, a feat that Kerry led and that China supported, along with Russia. Kerry used the news conference to urge China to take similar actions against North Korea and to create another “united front.” “With all due respect, more significant and impactful sanctions were put against Iran, which did not have nuclear weapons, than against North Korea, which does,” Kerry said. The secretary faces a tough sell. President Xi Jinping of China made a decision last year that it was better for China to have a friendly, nuclear-armed North Korea on its border than a hostile, nuclear-armed North Korea, Chinese analysts have said. “For China, the worst-case scenario is you push North Korea over to become an enemy with nuclear weapons,” said Zhang Baohui, director of the Center for Asian Pacific Studies at Lingnan University in Hong Kong. “I think China has decided to tolerate North Korea as a nuclear state.” Xi sent a top lieutenant, Liu Yunshan, a member of the Standing Committee of the Politburo, to Pyongyang in October to attend a military parade and to deliver a letter from Xi to the North’s leader, Kim Jong-un. Nevertheless, Zhang said, China has urged North Korea to denuclearize. And the North’s detonation of a nuclear device was a way of telling Beijing that it could not dictate the country’s foreign policy, he said. Chinese officials have told their American counterparts that they were not informed of the timing of the test and that it came as a surprise. China has accused Washington of using the tests as an excuse to deploy the missile defense system in South Korea. “The THAAD has nothing to do with North Korea,” said Wang Junsheng, a research fellow on Northeast Asia at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences. “It is simply the U.S. technically trying to deter China and Russia with these missiles and strategically alienating South Korea from China.” Hours after Kerry and Wang met, South Korea warned that North Korea might be preparing to launch a long-range rocket. On January 28, Kim Min-seok, a spokesman for the South Korean Defense Ministry, declined to comment on a Japanese news agency report about possible preparations, but did note that North Korea had always tested a long-range rocket before each of its first three nuclear tests. There was no launch before the January 6 test, “so we worry that it may do” so now, Kim said. (Jane Perlez and David E. Sanger, “Kerry Urges Chinese to Curb North Korea’s Expanding Nuclear Pursuits,” New York Times, January 28, 2016, p. A-12)

WANG: (Via interpreter) …Secretary Kerry and I have also had a very in-depth and comprehensive exchange of views on the nuclear issue on the Korean Peninsula. China is a large country and our position on this issue is transparent and above board. It’s also firm and consistent. Our position will not be swayed by specific events or the temporary mood of the moment. China’s basic position on this issue can be summarized as three commitments: We are committed to achieving the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula. We are committed to upholding peace and stability on the peninsula. We are committed to resolving the issues with full dialogue and consultation. These three points are tied to each other and we cannot do without any one of them. The goal is to have peace and stability on the peninsula, and to do that, we must press ahead with denuclearization. Otherwise, there can be no tranquility on the peninsula or in our region. And to achieve denuclearization, one has to take the path of negotiation and consultation. Sanctions are not an end in themselves. The key is to really resolve the issue. For many years, China has been working very hard to implement these three commitments. We’ve fulfilled our responsibility and we’ve delivered on our obligation. Recently, the DPRK has conducted another nuclear test in violation of UN Security Council resolutions, and that nuclear test disrupted the international nuclear nonproliferation regime. So of course, China made clear its opposition, and we also agree that the Security Council need to take further action and pass a new resolution. On the basis of necessary preparations, China will act in a responsible manner, and to have comprehensive and in-depth deliberations with the United States and other parties on this. In the meantime, we must point out that the new resolution should not provoke new tension in the situation, (inaudible) destabilize the Korean Peninsula. Rather, the goal is to take the nuclear issue on the Korean Peninsula back to the right track of negotiation. I’ve had very forward, in-depth, and productive discussions with Secretary Kerry on this issue, which helped us to deepen mutual understanding and expand on our consensus. I want to point out that China and the United States share the same overall goal on this issue, and so far, the two sides have conducted continuous coordination and cooperation, and we are prepared to continue to work in that direction. China’s position on this issue is clear-cut, consistent, responsible and sensible, and we reject all groundless speculation or distortion of China’s position. Before I conclude, I wish to say that it serves the fundamental interests of our two nations and it’s a general expectation of the international community to have sustained, healthy, and stable development of China-U.S. relations. China is prepared to work with the United States to earnestly implement the important understandings reached between our presidents, and to have more communication, mutual trust and cooperation, and to make even greater progress in our bilateral relationship in the year ahead. Thank you. KERRY: Let me just say with respect to one of the issues that the foreign minister raised on Taiwan, that since they’ve just had an election and a new party has won, the United States does reaffirm the three communiques which have been the basis of our policy. We remain committed to a one-China policy. But we encourage cross-straits dialogue for resolution of that issue. But the issue that topped our agenda today and on which we’ve spent most of the time that kept you waiting is the issue of North Korea. So let me be clear: Kim Jong-un’s actions are reckless and they are dangerous. Whether or not he achieved the explosion of the hydrogen weapon is not what makes the difference. It’s that he is trying, that he wants to do that, and made the attempt against all of the international sanctions and resolutions that have been passed by the global community to prohibit that behavior. As a result, North Korea poses an overt threat — a declared threat — to the world and it has stated its intention to develop a thermonuclear weapon. In addition, it has made clear its intent to develop an international continental ballistic missile with the capacity to carry a nuclear warhead to other places in the world. This is a threat to any nation in the world, but particularly, we in the United States understand what his purpose is, and therefore, it is a threat that the United States must take extremely seriously. And the United States will do what is necessary to protect the people of our country and our friends and allies in the world. All nations, particularly those who seek a global leadership role or who have a global leadership role, share a fundamental responsibility to meet this challenge with a united front. We were united as a world in making it clear to the nation of Iran that it should not develop a nuclear weapon, and indeed, we all joined together and worked cooperatively in the effort to make certain that we could get to the table and have negotiations. With all due respect, more significant and impactful sanctions were put in place against Iran, which did not have a nuclear weapon, than against North Korea, which does. And with Iran, we implemented an agreement in the end with the great cooperation of China, with China’s help, with Russia, Britain, France, Germany — all came together in order to assert a critical principle and enforce the United Nations Security Council resolutions. Now, the United States and China, along with countries and organizations across the international community, appropriately, quickly, and strongly condemned North Korea’s nuclear test. This test was a blatant violation of the UN Security Council resolution, and as permanent members of the Security Council, our two countries and other countries are obligated to take action. So it is vital for us — and we talked about this today and agreed — that we need to reach consensus on a strong UN Security Council resolution. But we have yet to fill out the parameters of exactly what it will do or say. But one of the things that we emphasized today is that there has been a lot of talk about North Korea through these past years. Now is the time, we believe, for action that can bring North Korea back to the table. I agree with my fellow minister. There is a goal in sanctions. It’s to get to the negotiations. And we must make it clear that is our objective — to negotiate the end to the nuclear program. Let me emphasize the United States and China are united in our opposition to North Korea’s nuclear weapons program, and we agree — both of us — on the imperative of achieving a denuclearized Korean Peninsula. And you heard Foreign Minister Wang reiterate that on behalf of China a moment ago. It’s good to agree on the goal, but it’s not enough to agree on the goal. We believe we need to agree on the meaningful steps necessary to get to the achievement of the goal — to the negotiations that result in denuclearization. And we look forward to working with China, which China agreed today to do, to engage in an accelerated effort at the United Nations, instructing both of our representatives to work together to try to achieve an understanding about the strong resolution that introduces significant new measures to curtail North Korea’s ability to advance its prescribed nuclear and ballistic missile programs. The last resolution that we passed was in the year 2013 — I believe the date is 22 January — and in that resolution, paragraph 19, the last paragraph before the decisions of the UN, stated that in highlighted language, we expressed our determination to take significant action in the event of a further DPRK launch or nuclear test. And that is what we are seeking in the UN — is the appropriate, significant action that we could agree on that will bring us to negotiations. As I have said publicly before — it’s not a secret — the United States believes very strongly that China has a particular ability because of its special role and its connections to North Korea, an ability to be able to help us significantly to resolve this challenge. And for our part, the United States will take all necessary steps to defend American people and to honor our security commitments to allies in the region. I say that making clear that we don’t want to raise military tensions, we’re not seeking additional steps other than the Security Council resolution, the negotiations — but we will not walk away from any options that may be necessary to achieve the goal. It is the policy of this Administration since it came into office, it has been the policy of the United States for always, that we will not accept North Korea as a nuclear-armed state, and we glad that China agrees with us and we are united in that conclusion. Now, both the foreign minister and I agree that there has to be another side to the stick, if you want to call it that. There has to be another side to the sanctions, and there is, and we are prepared to restate it publicly as we have said previously: If Pyongyang will instead choose a different path, it could open the door to sanctions relief, economic cooperation, energy and food aid, more direct humanitarian assistance, and a whole range of other possibilities. … So here’s the bottom line on today: We worked hard to understand each other’s approach and the best ways of trying to resolve the challenge of North Korea. We agreed on the importance of a strong UN Security Council resolution, and we agreed to accelerate our work at the UN immediately in order to try to reach an understanding of what should be in it and how we achieve our goal. And what should guide all of us as we leave here is that China and the United States have surprised people in the last few years. We’ve proved through our work on climate change, our work on Iran, and other things that when we put our minds together, we have the ability to get things done. We approached the talks today with that spirit in mind, and we are leaving here committed to try to find progress on these difficult issues. I have no doubt that our differences will continue to test us, but they should not prevent us from cooperating in other arenas, as we have in the past. For the world to do better to find prosperity and security, the United States and China need to be able to work together. That is what this moment demands and that will be our responsibility in the years and months to come….Q: Thank you. Secretary Kerry, what measures specifically are you looking for the Chinese to take? And are you satisfied with the answers from the foreign minister about what China would do? Is the U.S. prepared to impose secondary sanctions and increase its defenses in the region? … KERRY: So I don’t want to go into all of the specific options because I want to leave us the space to be able to negotiate going forward, and I think that that’s important. But let me just, in general, in sort of generic sectors — there are certain goods and services that flow between Korea, North Korea/DPRK and China; there are movements of ships, ports, so forth; aviation is an area and a sector of concern; various resource exchanges, whether it’s coal or fuel — all of these are areas where there are border customs, different things. There are many different ways we think in which non-punitive to the people of North Korea but nevertheless effective steps can be taken. In fairness, this is what we’re going to talk about. We’re going to negotiate, we’re going to talk in the next days in an accelerated basis, and I don’t want to get excessively specific about one thing versus another, because I think it’s important for us to have the space to be able to have that discussion, and we will. So we’ll see where we are. I think that what was important today is I heard from the foreign minister a commitment clearly to passing a resolution and make it strong, and adhere to the last resolution. And we now need to fill that out, and I think that’s what’s important.” (Secretary of State John Kerry, Press Availability with Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Beijing, January 27, 2017)

Senators are rallying around a bipartisan bill to strengthen sanctions against North Korea in a sign that lawmakers want to give the Obama administration less discretion over how it seeks to pressure Pyongyang following the regime’s recent announcement that it tested a hydrogen bomb. Some senators are concerned the current slate of sanctions needs to be enhanced — and that the Obama administration is not using existing authority aggressively enough to crack down on North Korea and those who do business with the country. “The legislative branch wanted to make sure that what it’s passing into law is going to force action,” Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) said after his panel approved the bill on Thursday. “When you have discretionary sanctions and you’ve got blanket waivers, it’s easy for an administration, Republican or Democrat, to waive those, and I think in this particular case, people felt strongly about that and wanted to make sure that [the sanctions] happened.” The bill goes a step further than legislation the House passed earlier this month, which would require the president to impose sanctions on money launderers, weapons and luxury goods traders, and human rights abusers, but would leave it up to the administration to decide whether to impose sanctions for other financial transactions. The Senate legislation would make sanctions for such prohibited financial transactions mandatory, allowing the president to waive them only on a case-by-case basis when it is in the national security or law enforcement interests of the United States. This marks a departure from the traditional way sanctions laws are structured. The president would still retain discretionary authority on whether to sanction those facilitating the transfer of the North Korean regime’s financial assets. “This is a much more rigid regime on sanctions than we usually impose,” said Sen. Cory Gardner (R-Colo.), one of two senators who drafted the Senate bill, arguing that the administration’s habit of “from time to time, add[ing] an additional entity” to the sanctions list “clearly isn’t working, otherwise we’d have effective change on the peninsula.” The push for taking a tougher stand with North Korea comes in the wake of a particularly tense period between lawmakers and the administration concerning sanctions against Iran. Lawmakers in both parties shared frustrations that the Obama administration was not moving quickly enough to punish Iran for conducting ballistic missile tests in advance of the implementation of the nuclear pact with Tehran. Many of those lawmakers are now preparing new, non-nuclear sanctions proposals against Iran that will be unveiled in the weeks ahead. Gardner and Sen. Bob Menendez (D-N.J.) both wrote North Korea sanctions bills last year and have been working for the last two weeks to combine their efforts into a single proffer — a deal they struck today. In terms of the mandatory sanctions the administration would be forced to impose, the compromise product reflects the nature of Gardner’s bill more, but is slightly more stringent than either senator’s initial draft. Menendez said he was comfortable to “provide certain areas greater absolutism” to make sure “there are sanctions that will be enforced, versus at the end of the day having a lot of discretion that never gets implemented.” “The flexibility exists” through the waivers, Menendez added, arguing the case-by-case authority should placate any fears from the administration or South Korea that the Senate bill is too stiff. He also stressed that the Senate’s bill goes further than the House measure to ensure adequate exceptions for humanitarian aid for the North Korean people. That combination appears to have satisfied Menendez’s fellow Democrats as well. “In North Korea we’re not only going to speak as a united voice, we’re going to bring the House and the Senate together,” said committee ranking member Ben Cardin (D-Md.). Such support, he added, would “make it clear we won’t tolerate the type of activities that are taking place in North Korea.” Cardin called the bill a “corrective action” against the erosion of harsh measures against North Korea that many lawmakers believe was eased in error. A decade ago, harsh financial sanctions that crippled a key institution that handled transactions for the regime helped drive North Korea to the negotiating table over its nuclear program. But some of those measures were ratcheted back during the negotiations, which were ultimately unsuccessful. Since then, the Treasury Department has issued some new sanctions — but the Senate bill would intensify those efforts. Corker said that swift passage of the bill would not preclude working through the United Nations Security Council to take additional measures against North Korea. This week, China, widely accepted as North Korea’s most vital sponsor nation, agreed to work with the United States on a U.N. resolution denouncing Pyongyang’s latest nuclear test, but the two countries are still bitterly divided over what kind of additional punitive measures should be pursued. The Senate’s bill will come to a floor vote the week after next, Corker said, and it is expected to pass. It’s unclear whether the House will accept the Senate’s proposal, but House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Ed Royce (R-Calif.) praised the committee for moving legislation, and supports the changes that were made. “Now is not the time to stand by while this regime works to build an arsenal capable of hitting the United States,” he said in a statement. (Karun Emirian, “Senate’s North Korea Bill Would Force Administration’s Hand on Sanctions,” Washington Post, January 28, 2016)


1/28/16:
North Korea may be preparing to launch a long-range missile as soon as within a week, Kyodo reported, citing an unnamed Japanese government official. The official cited signs of possible preparations for a missile launch, based on satellite imagery of the North’s Tongchang-ri missile test site on its west coast. Yonhap cited a government source as saying there had been steady activity at the missile base, with screens set up at key areas, probably to deter spy satellite surveillance. Much of the site’s operation is automated and rails are set up to move rocket components quickly for final assembly and launch, Yonhap quoted the source as saying. (Jun-min Park and Jack Kim, “North Korea May Be Readying Long-Range Missile Launch Soon: Kyodo,” Reuters, January 27, 2016) North Korea may test a long-range ballistic missile soon amid increased activity at its northwestern launch site, sources and military officials said. Their analysis came after Kyodo reported that Pyongyang may be preparing for a missile launch in a week or so, citing an unnamed government source. “We have detected increased movement of equipment and personnel at the Tongchang-ri launch site,” an intelligence source said. “We estimate that the North can carry out a missile launch without a notice at any time after it extended its missile launch pad at the facility.” Defense Ministry spokesman Kim Min-seok also said the North had always fired a long-range missile ahead of a nuclear test in the past, but it did not do it before the January 6 nuclear test. The military was therefore concerned that the North would launch a missile afterwards. According to intelligence authorities, late last year, the North successfully finished upgrading the Sohae Satellite Launching Station at Tongchang-ri, raising the height of the gantry tower on the launch pad to accommodate a wider range of missiles. Experts estimate the upgrade could theoretically enable the North to launch a missile that could travel 13,000 kilometers, enough to strike the U.S. mainland. The North also has laid railroad lines from an assembly building to the launch pad as part of efforts to modernize the facility, and placed a cover over the pad last year to evade surveillance from spy satellites. However, the spokesman said the North had yet to declare a no-sail zone, a notification necessary before a long-range missile launch that affects other parts of the world. “A no-sail zone is required internationally because North Korea’s past long-range missiles or rockets flew to the east coast of the Philippines,” Kim said. “But I have not heard anything so far on that.” Kim also said, “The South Korean government’s stance on the issue is that the North must not carry out such a provocation that violates United Nations Security Council resolutions.” (Kang Seung-woo, “N.K. May Fire Long-Range Missile Soon,” Korea Times, January 28, 2016) The United States has seen increased activity around a North Korean missile site, suggesting preparations for a possible space launch in the near future, U.S. officials told Reuters. (Phil Stewart and Andrea Shalal, “North Korea Activity Points to Possible Space Launch,” Reuters, January 29, 2016) “It appears that the North is almost ready to launch long-rage rockets,” a high-ranking South Korean government official said “I heard from an inside man in North Korea that the North dropped the plan to launch long-range rockets in October last year, around the foundation day of the Workers’ Party, and it was not because of China, but because of a technical glitch,” said a source. (Dong-A Ilbo, “Kim Jong-un Aims to Fire up Missiles before Party Congress,” January 29, 2016)

South Korea, the U.S. and Japan have fully mobilized their surveillance assets as the countries are bracing for North Korea’s possible launch of a long-range missile in the near future. “The South Korean military has deployed its Aegis destroyer in the Yellow Sea and given a mission to the early warning and control aircraft ‘Peace Eye,'” a government official said. On the ground, the anti-ballistic radar ‘Green Pine’ has also started its surveillance operations, the official said. The Aegis combat system-equipped destroyer is one of the forward deployed surveillance assets of South Korea, with its capability to detect a ballistic missile coming from outside a 1,000-kilometer radius. Within a 500-km radius, the warship’s radar could detect and track up to 1,000 targets simultaneously. It took only 54 seconds for the South Korean Aegis vessel to detect the launch after the North lifted off a long-range missile in December 2012, the latest of Pyongyang’s five long-range missile tests. These are in addition to the U.S.’ reconnaissance satellites that keeps watch on North Korea’s missile launch sites as well as sea-based radar surveillance assets. From the side of the U.S. forces stationed in Japan, reconnaissance aircraft called Cobra Ball (RC-135S) is likely to be deployed for the increased surveillance efforts. Japan has also reportedly set sail one of its Aegis destroyers, JDS Kirishima, which is equipped with SM-3 anti-aircraft interceptor missiles. (Yonhap, “Surveillance in Full Swing on Prospect of North’s Missile Launch,” Korea Herald, January 29, 2016) Defense Minister Nakatani Gen has ordered Aegis destroyers that operate in the Sea of Japan to be ready to target any North Korean projectiles heading for Japan. A Defense Ministry spokesman declined to say whether PAC-3 batteries and the Aegis destroyers had been deployed to respond to any threat from North Korea. Nakatani, asked in a press briefing whether Japan would shoot down any North Korean missile, said: “We will take steps to respond, but I will refrain from revealing specific measures given the nature of the situation.” Japan also has Patriot PAC-3 missile batteries around Tokyo and other sites to provide a last line of defense as warheads near the ground. Rather than a direct attack, however, Japan is more concerned that debris from a missile test could fall on its territory. (Reuters, “Japan Puts SADF on Alert for Possible North Korean Missile Test,” Asahi Shimbun, January 29, 2016)

Rodong Sinmun: “The Austrian newspaper Kronen-Zeitung, Reuters, AFP and other media criticized the U.S. for reneging on its commitment to building the “world without nuclear weapons.” …Such criticism is quite justifiable in view of the present grave situation. … In order to denuclearize the world, it is, first of all, necessary for the U.S. to abandon huge nuclear weapons it stockpiled in its mainland and other places around the world. Building the “world without nuclear weapons” is unthinkable without the denuclearization of the U.S. The U.S. is mulling realizing its wild ambition to dominate the world through an unchallenged nuclear edge after appeasing and deceiving several nuclear weapons states into disarming themselves. Today the Korean Peninsula is a hotspot in the world. The U.S. nuclear war maniacs who designated the DPRK as a target of their preemptive nuclear strike are threatening they would attack it without an advance notice. It is needless to say that the U.S. is the arch criminal of the nuclear threat and the chieftain of arms race harassing peace and security in the Korean Peninsula and the rest of the world. The U.S., the world’s worst nuclear criminal, should not make a mockery of humankind with lies and deception. As long as the U.S. blinded by the preponderance of nuclear weapons exits, the denuclearization of the world can never be realized. Obama should abandon his Nobel Peace Prize though belatedly as he was awarded it for his whopping lies.” (KCNA, “Denuclearization of the World Depends on U.S. Abandonment of Its Nuclear Weapons: Rodong Sinmun,” January 28, 2016)

Recent commercial satellite imagery shows a range of low-level activities at the Sohae Satellite Launching Station (also referred to as “Tongchang-ri”)—at the launch pad, covered railway station, VIP housing area, launch control bunker and National Aerospace Development Administration (NADA) buildings and helipad—that indicate Pyongyang is in the early stages of preparation for launching a space launch vehicle (SLV). If that is the case, a rocket test in the coming week is unlikely. However, it is important to note that there is a high level of uncertainty about this judgment for a number of reasons and Pyongyang may be further along in its preparations. First, the gantry tower work platforms are covered by an environmental cover and are folded forward, obscuring any view of whether a SLV is inside or not. Second, the movable transfer structure could easily allow for stages to be assembled and transferred to the gantry tower during periods of darkness or heavy cloud cover. Moreover, since the entire launch pad area is now clear of snow, any movement by the structure cannot be determined. Third, commercial satellite imagery coverage of the test site is not continuous and therefore observers only have snapshots of activity at the launch pad. If North Korea follows previous pre-launch preparation practices, we would expect to see in the coming days increased site-wide activity, traffic at the fuel/oxidizer storage bunkers, activity at the launch pad and the presence of tracking equipment. Activity at Sohae also suggests a possible rocket engine test is under preparation at the vertical engine test stand. A recently completed large rail-mounted environmental structure large enough to shelter the first stage of rockets, such as the Unha space launch vehicle or the Musudan intermediate-range ballistic missile or a new engine of similar size, has been moved up to the test stand. While this may simply be testing the ability of the shelter to move it on the rails, a more likely alternative is that an engine test is being prepared. (Jack Liu, “Suspicious Activity at North Korea’s Sohae Satellite Launching Station,” 38North, January 28, 2016)

Chosun Ilbo editorial: “The foreign ministers of the U.S. and China failed to reach agreement on [yesterday] on how to deal with North Korea after its recent nuclear test. U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said Washington and Beijing agreed on the “need for a UN resolution” to impose sanctions but failed to provide details. Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi claimed that sanctions against the North should not be the final goal and insisted China continues to stand behind the policy of engaging Pyongyang in dialogue. This makes it quite clear that China will not tighten the noose around North Korea’s neck by limiting trade to the point where it really hurts. North Korea has responded to each and every UN sanction by conducting a nuclear or missile test. It has vowed never to give up its nuclear ambitions, and there is no chance that it will buckle under further sanctions. Now that China has more or less promised to sit on its hands, Pyongyang will push ahead full steam in developing a nuclear warhead small enough to mount on a missile and submarine-launched ballistic missiles. Once it develops these weapons, the military balance on the Peninsula will tilt dangerously. Even if the South bolsters its missile defenses with the aid of the U.S., such defense systems will only offer us brief psychological solace while the country remains in the crosshairs of the North’s weapons of mass destruction. Using conventional weapons to counter such a threat is ludicrous. The U.S. has passed the buck for taming North Korea to China, and China is doing nothing. Seoul now faces a real need for public discussion of the development of its own nuclear weapons. If the public wants the country to arm itself with nuclear weapons, the government will simply have to scrap a joint declaration from 1991 to denuclearize the Korean Peninsula and initiate talks with the U.S. to obtain the right to enrich uranium and reprocess its own spent nuclear fuel rods. It will require delicate handling. If Seoul is too aggressive in pushing ahead with its own nuclear program, it could alienate the U.S. and face international sanctions. This would be devastating for an export-dependent country. And if it tries to obtain the technology on its own, its efforts could be thwarted by the superpowers, which will monitor every move. But Seoul can no longer sit idly by as the six-party talks lead to no results and Washington and Beijing are busy blaming each other for their diplomatic failures. North Korea has invaded this country in the past and has not hesitated to provoke Seoul repeatedly since the ceasefire agreement was signed in 1953. If it obtains nuclear weapons, the South faces a bleak fate. Would China come to the rescue if the North launched a nuclear attack against South Korea? Would the U.S. step in to protect Seoul? Judging by Washington’s inaction in the military crises in the Ukraine and Syria, it would probably respond only after Seoul has been turned into a pile of smoldering ashes. The biggest victim of North Korea’s nuclear weapons program is not China, Japan or the U.S., but the people of South Korea. They can no longer sit idly by and continue to ignore the options they have to deal with this threat. (Chosun Ilbo, S. Koreans Must Discuss Acquiring Nuclear Arms,” January 28, 2016)


1/29/16:
The U.S. now believes North Korea might have attempted to test components of a hydrogen bomb on January 6, after further review and analysis of the latest intelligence information. A U.S. official directly familiar with the latest U.S. assessment said there may have been a partial, failed test of some type of components associated with a hydrogen bomb. The assessment comes after careful examination of the latest intelligence analysis of the test data. But the official emphasized there is no final conclusion. The U.S. still does not accept North Korea’s claim that it tested a hydrogen bomb, but air sampling conducted after the test has proved inconclusive, the official said. That prompted another look at the seismic data. That analysis shows the test was conducted more than two times deeper underground than originally assessed — at a depth consistent with what might be needed for a hydrogen bomb. However, the size of the seismic event and other intelligence indicates it was not likely a fully functioning device. The official said it’s possible the North Koreans believe they conducted a full hydrogen bomb test, but the U.S. believes it was likely only some components, perhaps a detonator, that exploded. (Barbara Starr, “North Korea May Have Tested Components of a Hydrogen Bomb,” CNN, January 29, 2016)

Choi Son-hui, deputy director-general of the North Korean foreign ministry’s American affairs bureau, was seen entering China in the morning through the Beijing international airport, multiple sources here said. It was not immediately confirmed whether she will be staying here or transferring to another country. She may have the mission of having consultations on the international community’s push for a U.N. resolution to punish Pyongyang. Choi served as deputy head of the North’s delegation to the six-party nuclear talks. She was also in charge of translation in Pyongyang’s major negotiations on its nuclear program. Some observers say Choi seems to be effectively leading the North Korean foreign ministry’s American affairs bureau these days. A daughter of the North’s former premier Choi Yong-rim, she is known to have studied in Austria, Malta, and China. (Yonhap, “North Korean Nuclear Envoy Seen in Beijing,” Korea Times, January 29, 2016)


1/31/16:
North Korea’s trade with China dipped nearly 15 percent last year apparently due to a chilly bilateral relationship between the two neighboring countries, according to a report by state-run think tank Korea Development Institute (KDI). The North-China trade volume reached US$4.9 billion in the January-November period, down 14.8 percent from $5.76 billion a year earlier, marking the first double-digit on-year drop since 2000Pyongyang’s shipments to its neighbor sank 12.3 percent to $2.28 billion over the cited period, while imports from China plunged 16.8 percent to $2.63 billion. The trade between the allies has risen an average of 22.4 percent between 2000 and 2014. Only in 2009 and 2014 did it shrink on-year. The KDI report attributed the sharp decline to sluggish raw material exports, as shipments of anthracite coal and iron ore fell 6.3 percent and 68.5 percent, respectively. “The chilly relationship between Pyongyang and Beijing and a slowdown in the Chinese economy seemed to affect North Korea’s sluggish trade with China,” said the report. “North Korean leader Kim Jong-un’s New Year message, which called for using home-made products and rejecting foreign-made ones, also had some influence on the downbeat trend.” “North Korean trade will be dragged down by international economic sanctions sparked by the North’s latest nuclear test in the first half of this year,” the KDI said. “North Korea-China trade has shrunk to some extent, following sanctions by the U.N.” (Kim Boram, “N. Korea’s Trade with China Contracts in 2015,” Yonhap, January 31, 2016)


2/2/16:
North Korea has notified the International Telecommunication Union of the future launch of an earth observation satellite, an ITU source told Kyodo. DPRK Posts and Telecommunications Minister Kim Kwang Chol informed the Geneva-based ITU via diplomatic channels that the satellite will be of the Kwangmyongsong (Bright Star) type and have a four-year operational life. No clues as to the timing of the launch were provided, but sources at the London-based International Maritime Organization said the IMO was informed by North Korea that an earth observation satellite launch would be conducted between February 8 and 25. (Kyodo, “N. Korea Notifies U.N. Agency of Future Satellite Launch,” February 2, 2016)

American troops stationed in South Korea are fully committed to deterring aggression and provocations from North Korea, the new commander of the United States’ Eighth Army here said, vowing efforts to toughen joint combat readiness between the allies. “From its establishment, Eighth Army’s mission has been to protect and defend freedom and democracy,” Lt. Gen. Thomas Vandal said as he assumed his position as the commander of the Eighth Army, the backbone of U.S. Forces Korea. Vandal replaced the outgoing commander of the Eighth Army, Lt. Gen. Bernard Champoux, in a change of command ceremony earlier in the day held at the USFK base in Yongsan, central Seoul, which was attended by USFK Commander Gen. Curtis Scaparrotti, U.S. Ambassador to Seoul Mark Lippert and other key former and incumbent military officials from both countries. With his new role, Vandal also assumed the position as the chief of staff for United Nations Command, Combined Forces Command and USFK. A graduate of the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, Vandal previously served as the commander of the Eighth Army’s Second Infantry Division for about two years until April 2015, in charge of defending South Korea’s frontline areas. He has also been the assistant chief of staff for USFK before assuming this latest position. (Yonhap, “U.S. Troops in Korea Focusing on Deterring N. Korean Threats: New Commander,” February 2, 2016)


2/2-3/16:
KCNA: “An enlarged joint meeting of the Central Committee of the Workers’ Party of Korea (WPK) and the Korean People’s Army (KPA) Committee of the WPK took place in Pyongyang on February 2-3. Kim Jong Un, first secretary of the WPK, first chairman of the National Defense Commission of the DPRK and supreme commander of the KPA, guided the enlarged joint meeting. Attending it were officials of the WPK Central Committee and members of the Party Committee of the KPA. Leading party officials of commissions and ministries and local areas and officials of armed organs were present as observers. The meeting had an in-depth discussion on the principled issues arising in further strengthening the WPK into the glorious party of President Kim Il Sung and leader Kim Jong Il as required by the developing revolution on the occasion of the 7th WPK Congress to be recorded as a new landmark in the history of the Party. It criticized mainly the practices of seeking privileges, misuse of authority, abuse of power and bureaucratism manifested in the party and proposed tasks and ways for thoroughly overcoming them. Before declaring the meeting open, Kim Jong Un noted that it is the first time in the history of the WPK to have this meeting. A report and speeches were made at the meeting. The reporter and speakers said that the meeting is a historic event in further developing the WPK into the powerful political staff of the Songun (army-first) revolution and a motherly Party sharing its fate with the popular masses and consolidating the integrated whole of the Party and the people as firm as a rock, true to the leadership of Kim Jong Un. Kim Jong Un made a conclusion. He said that the meeting is of weighty significance in further strengthening the Party organizationally and ideologically, rallied close around its Central Committee with one thought and purpose, with the whole party moving as one under the monolithic leadership of the Party. He set forth the tasks and ways for intensifying the work to imbue the whole society with Kimilsungism-Kimjongilism and thoroughly establishing the monolithic leadership system of the Party. Our revolutionary faith will grow stronger as our revolution which started with struggle and advances with it is faced with manifold difficulties and ordeals, he said, adding that nobody in the world can block our way. The enlarged joint meeting, presided over by Kim Jong Un, marked a significant occasion in consolidating the unbreakable unity and cohesion of the leader, party, army and people as firm as a rock and realizing the modeling of the whole party and society on Kimilsungism-Kimjongilism on a new higher stage as required by the important historic period of the revolutionary cause of Juche.” (KCNA, “Enlarged Joint meeting of C.C., WPK and Its KPA Committee Guided by Kim Jong-un,” February 4, 2016)

A top general in North Korea was executed this month on corruption charges, around the time the nation’s leader, Kim Jong-un, warned the party and military elites against abuse of power and other misdeeds, a South Korean official said February 10. The general, Ri Yong-gil, chief of the North Korean Army’s general staff and ranked third in its hierarchy, was executed on charges of “factionalism, abuse of power and corruption” in the latest episode of Kim’s “reign of terror,” the official said. The official agreed to confirm the execution, first reported by the South Korean news media, only on the condition of anonymity because the information involved government intelligence. Although South Korea’s National Intelligence Service did not confirm it, many South Korean news outlets reported that General Ri had been executed, citing an unidentified intelligence source. Kim convened a joint meeting of the Central Committee of the Workers’ Party and the Committee of the Korean People’s Army on Feb. 2 and 3. There, he criticized “the practices of seeking privileges, misuse of authority, abuse of power and bureaucratism,” according to KCNA. The South Korean news media quoted the unidentified intelligence source as saying that General Ri, a career army officer, might have been targeted for purging after resisting the control the ruling Workers’ Party has reasserted over the military under Kim. General Ri was one of the most prominent generals under Kim, frequently accompanying him to important state events. But the general’s name disappeared from North Korean news media after mid-January. He was not included in the lists of top officials who the North Korean news media said attended the party meeting this month or a large gathering in Pyongyang, the capital, on Monday to celebrate the country’s launching of a satellite a day earlier. (Choe Sang-hun, “Accused of Graft, a General Is Executed in North Korea,” New York Times, February 11, 2016, p. A-10) a source from within the North told Daily NK that General Ri Yong Gil was indeed arrested during a two-day joint meeting among Party and military officials, but no subsequent information exists as of yet to suggest that he has been executed. The incident occurred on February 2 at an expanded joint meeting of the Workers’ Party of Korea [KPW] Central Committee and the Korean People’s Army [KPA] WPK Committee. “Well into the meeting, the army chief of staff, Ri Yong Gil, and other generals were arrested and dragged out by ‘Changkwang security agents’ [designated for Kim Jong Un], who are expressly tasked with the arrest of top-tier cadres,” a source in South Pyongan Province, citing a provincial-level Party cadre, told Daily NK on February 11. An additional source in Pyongyang corroborated this news. (Choi Song-min, “Ri Yong-gil Arrested Publicly Last Week, Inside Sources Report,” Daily NK, February 12, 2016)


2/3/16:
China expressed “serious concern” over North Korea’s plan to launch a long-range rocket this month, but admitted that it can’t prevent Pyongyang from going ahead with the planned launch. “We express our serious concern about that,” China’s foreign ministry spokesman Lu Kang told reporters, when asked about North Korea’s planned rocket launch. “We believe that North Korea has the right for the peaceful use of space, but at the moment, the relevant right should be subject for restrictions by U.N. Security Council resolutions,” Lu said. China’s chief nuclear envoy Wu Dawei left for Pyongyang yesterday, but Lu declined to give details of Wu’s visit, including how long he would stay there. Lu said Wu will “exchange views with the North Korean side on the current situation of the (Korean) Peninsula,” describing Wu’s visit to Pyongyang as a “bilateral exchange between the two sides.” Asked whether North Korea’s notification of its planned rocket launch is another slap in the face for China after the North’s fourth nuclear test, Lu blamed the United States for raising tensions and repeated that China is not the main cause of North Korea’s nuclear issue. “In response to some countries’ outcry for pressure and sanctions, North Korea conducted one nuclear test after another,” Lu said. “In this sense, North Korea did slap some country across the face. As for whose face North Korea did slap, I think the country itself knows well,” Lu said. (Yonhap, “China Expresses ‘Serious Concern’ over N. Korea’s Planned Rocket Launch,” February 3, 2016)

Japan condemned Pyongyang’s plan to launch a space rocket, calling it a thinly disguised test of a long-distance ballistic missile. The government ordered Aegis ballistic missile defense warships of the Maritime Self-Defense Force and land-based Patriot PAC-3 rocket units to respond should projections show components falling in Japanese territory. “This will effectively mean the firing of a ballistic missile. It would be a clear violation of United Nations Security Council resolutions and a grave, provocative act against the security of our country,” Prime Minister Abe Shinzo told a Lower House session Wednesday. “Japan, in cooperation with the United States and South Korea, will strongly urge North Korea to refrain from (conducting) the launch,” Abe said. During a daily news conference, Chief Cabinet Secretary Suga Yoshihide pointed out that the projectile, expected to be launched from a site in western North Korea, would fly over part of the Sakishima island chain of Okinawa Prefecture, which includes the islands of Ishigaki and Miyako. Meanwhile, Defense Minister Nakatani Gen ordered the Self-Defense Forces to destroy any parts of the rocket should they threaten to fall within Japanese territory. Japan has already deployed Aegis destroyers equipped with the SM-3 missile system at sea and Patriot PAC-3 air-defense units of the Ground Self-Defense Forces on land. Both systems are designed to intercept ballistic missiles. Their primary mission is seen as monitoring the launch, but the deployment also appears to be a gesture underlining Japan’s determination to defend its territory. Pyongyang’s declared plan would involve three parts of the rocket falling west of the Korean Peninsula, in the East China Sea southwest of the peninsula and in the Pacific Ocean east of the Philippines, respectively. The rocket is expected to fly over the Sakishima island chain, according to a map with navigation warnings posted by the Japan Coast Guard on its website. The course matches that of a ballistic missile Pyongyang launched in December 2012, Suga said. (Yoshida Reiji and Mie Ayako, “Japan Orders JDF to Shoot down North Korean Missile,” Japan Times, February 3, 2016) The government on February 4 detailed the information systems it will use to warn local municipalities if Self-Defense Forces radar detects North Korea’s latest planned missile launch. Since the expected trajectory is similar to that of a missile North Korea fired in December 2012, the government indicated it will use the same systems, called J-alert and Em-Net, that were employed at that time. If the missile’s course matches the information North Korea provided, Tokyo will first use J-alert to inform the residents of areas such as Okinawa Prefecture, which stand to be directly affected by the launch. J-alert instantly and directly informs the local municipalities at stake. Once J-alert has done its job, the rest of the country would subsequently be informed via an emergency information system called Em-Net, which is installed at designated government entities and institutions such as the public transportation system and news organizations. Both alert systems are set to be tested on February 5. In the event that the missile takes an unexpected course over Japanese territory, the government will also use J-alert. If the missile’s debris should fall on Japanese soil, Tokyo will warn the residents of nearby communities to stay inside and away from the debris, which might contain a highly toxic chemical that can cause heart failure. The government will not use J-alert if the missile does not fly over Japan. But it will supply information about the launch through Em-Net. Meanwhile, a transport vessel carrying ground-based ballistic missile interceptors left a Maritime Self-Defense Force base in Hiroshima Prefecture for Okinawa on Thursday to prepare for the missile launch. The interceptors, named Patriot Advanced Capability-3, would be used should the missile fall toward Japanese islands. The MSDF Osumi transport vessel is set to arrive in the southern island prefecture in a few days, and the Patriot PAC-3s will be deployed on Miyako and Ishigaki islands. (Mie Ayako, “Japan Explains Alert Systems to Be Used If North Korea Fires Missile,” Japan Times, February 4, 2016)

North Korea recently held a massive artillery exercise along the frontlines of its West Sea border, a military source said. Military authorities here have put troops stationed on islands on the West Sea on high alert amid fears of a North Korean provocation along the Northern Limit Line ahead of its looming rocket launch. The drills fuel speculation after the North’s recent nuclear test that military hardliners have gained the upper hand in internal power struggles there. The source said the North’s live-fire artillery exercises “went beyond routine drills.” The source added, “We are preparing for a North Korean provocation using South Korean artillery drills as an excuse.” The military has also spotted North Korean coastal batteries ready to fire live ammunition. They are the same that shelled Yeonpyeong Island in 2010. North Korea apparently completed an observation post on Ari Island, an uninhabited island 12 km northeast of Yeonpyeong Island. A 20-m steel tower is apparently used to monitor Yeonpyeong and surrounding waters. Officials here believe the observation post enables North Korea to quickly react to movements by South Korean Marines and Navy vessels stationed on Yeonpyeong Island. The North also apparently stationed four 122-mm multiple rocket launchers on Gal Island 4.5km northwest of Yeonpyeong. (Jun Hyun-suk, “N. Korea Holds Massive Artillery Drills, Chosun Ilbo, February 4, 2016)


2/4/16:
The Ministry of National Defense said that the military was ready to shoot down a North Korean rocket or its debris if they enter South Korean airspace. “The military is strengthening its air defense posture to intercept the North Korean missile or its debris that could fall on our land or in our waters,” spokesman Moon Sang-gyun told a press briefing. “In proportion to the level of the possible damage, South Korea will take action under its right of self-defense.” The military has put its Patriot Advanced Capability (PAC)-2 surface-to-air missiles into combat mode to guard against the possibility of a North Korean missile landing in South Korean territory, he said. Moon added that interceptor operations will be conducted under the ROK-U.S. joint defense system, indicating that the United States Forces Korea’s PAC-3 missiles could also be mobilized, if necessary. (Jun Ji-hye, “Military Vows to Shoot down N. Korea Rocket,” Korea Times, February 4, 2016)

North Korea likes to call South Korea a land of “political filth” and its leaders, including President Park Geun-hye, “human trash.” Now, apparently to highlight its contempt, it has begun sending balloons into the South with an unusual payload, the police here said: cigarette butts. The balloons were timed to detonate their payloads, scattering thousands of messages that, among other things, called Park a “filthy president.” Some of the timers failed to function, however, and the airborne cargo crashed onto rooftops and cars in South Korean villages near the border. Inspecting the debris, military and police personnel discovered that the balloons’ payloads included things they had not seen before. “We can confirm that they included cigarette butts,” Kim Hak-young, a chief superintendent of the police, said Thursday, though he declined to provide any details. The police and the Defense Ministry until today had refused to confirm a news report earlier in the week that some North Korean balloons were carrying trash, including used toilet paper. The JoongAng Daily reported on February 2 that the discovery had alarmed South Korean officials and led to fears that the North might have sent hazardous biochemical agents. But an investigation showed the trash was just trash. (Choe Sang-hun, “Trash Flies across DMZ as Koreas Trade Insults.,” New York Times, February 5, 2016, p. A-4)


2/5/16:
Japan has deployed PAC-3 missile batteries in the heart of Tokyo to shoot down any incoming rocket debris. South Korea is reportedly mobilizing two Aegis-equipped destroyers. The U.S. is already gunning to punish Pyongyang for what it says will be a ballistic missile test in the guise of a space launch. Whatever lifts off from North Korea’s western coast space center this month, one thing is certain — since rockets and missiles inevitably have overlapping technologies, it will run afoul of U.N. resolutions that have been in place for years to bar North Korea from testing any technology that could be used to develop long-range ballistic missiles. But maybe it’s time to take a deep breath. According to many experts, the North’s rockets look a lot more like what the North says they are — space launch vehicles, or SLVs — and they aren’t necessarily helping Pyongyang get that much closer to having a reliable, long-range missile capable of dropping a nuclear weapon on the United States any time soon. “What is needed now is a sober, serious, and reasonable public assessment of the threat from North Korea,” said Ted Postol, a professor of science, technology and national security policy at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and a former scientific adviser to the Chief of Naval Operations at the Pentagon. Postol and other experts who spoke to the Associated Press say the devil is in the details. The distinction between a rocket used to lift a satellite into space and a long-range ballistic missile is highly technical but of crucial importance to understanding North Korea’s motives and capabilities and in forming a realistic and effective strategy to deal with them. It is also crucial to understand the limitations of what space rocket launches contribute to the North’s ability to develop military-use missiles. According to some, that isn’t necessarily very much. “A real ICBM is a weapon system that has to hit a given target on the other side of the world, being launched at any condition with the push of a button almost instantly,” said Markus Schiller, a prominent expert on North Korean missile technology and founder of Munich-based ST Analytics. “Just launching a small satellite carrier every other year, which uses different technology than required for a real ICBM, does not get you much closer to this goal.” “They gain experience by launching a large rocket like Unha,” said Schiller. “But this is just one minor of so many steps required for a real ICBM, and the Unha is definitely designed as a satellite launcher.” David Wright, co-director and senior scientist with the Global Security Program of the Union of Concerned Scientists, also warned against quickly dismissing Pyongyang’s space launches as a smoke screen. “While launching satellites helps North Korea learn about rocket technology, I think its desire to launch satellites is real,” he said. “This is partly for prestige, and it was of course a huge deal that it put something into orbit before South Korea. But I think, like other countries, it sees learning how to use space for various activities as an important long-term capability.” None of this means the threat of North Korea developing advanced ballistic missiles is a mirage. The North started its development of ballistic missiles in the 1970s by reverse-engineering Soviet-made, 300-kilometer (186-mile)-range Scud Bs it acquired from Egypt, according to South Korea’s Defense Ministry. The country began producing and deploying 500-kilometer (310-mile)-range Scud C missiles by the mid-1980s and the Roding missiles by the 1990s. South Korean officials also believe that beginning in 2007, the North has been deploying 3,000-kilometer (1,864-mile)-range missiles, which foreign analysts have dubbed Musudan after the name of the village near its test site. That would theoretically put locations as far as Guam and parts of the Philippines within striking distance. Even more advanced is the three-stage Taepodong-2 missile, which Seoul claims the North deployed after a test-firing in 2006. It has an estimated range of 10,000 kilometers (6,214 miles), bringing North’s best-case scenario range out to the U.S. West Coast, Hawaii, Australia and Eastern Europe, according to the South’s Defense Ministry. The basic structure of the Taepodong-2 is quite similar to the Unha-3 rocket. But even South Korean experts say an Unha-3-type rocket would make for a poor intercontinental ballistic missile because of the time needed for launch preparation and the requirement for it to be fired from a fixed launch site. Alison Evans, senior analyst of IHS Country Risk, argued in a recent assessment that if the North is seriously pursuing an ICBM, its next step is to prove that its SLVs are capable of carrying a payload that can re-enter the atmosphere, a key capability for ballistic missiles — which, after all, must hit targets on the ground. That has not so far been part of any of North Korea’s space launches. But the focus on whether the North’s space launch rockets are really missiles or, even if they aren’t, that each launch brings the North closer to having an ICBM may be misguided. “There is no doubt that the leadership in North Korea presents a very serious threat to South Korea, Japan, and China,” said Postol, the MIT scientist. But he added that the common reaction abroad to the North’s rocket launches has been “severely inflated” and has become “a distraction from the real and serious security problems that North Korea creates.” The more pressing concern, Postol believes, is underwater. He believes a “very good argument can be made” that if North Korea were to launch a nuclear-armed ballistic missile attack on the mainland of the United States, it wouldn’t come from an ICBM at all, but from submarine launched ballistic missiles, which can be deployed in a far more stealthy manner and have relatively short flight times. “If North Korea uses these submarines in ways that keep them in coastal waters, anti-submarine warfare will be almost useless against them,” he said. That’s because shorter-range nuclear-tipped missiles launched from submarines closer to shore would be difficult or impossible to intercept with the kind of booster-phase defenses the U.S. and others rely on. “So if I were betting on a bad outcome in the future, my bet would be on a future North Korean SLBM and a future nuclear warhead that could be carried by it,” Postol said. He said he expects this kind of a threat to emerge from North Korea in the next five years. “But I have serious doubts about whether North Korea will be able to build a compact nuclear warhead that is sufficiently rugged to be mounted on such missiles,” he added. “If these two guesses are correct, North Korea will continue being not much more than a paper tiger. If not, we are in for real trouble.” (Associated Press, “Experts Says Launch Won’t Bring North Korea Much Closer to ICBM,” February 5, 2016)

Newly uncovered documents and other testimony about a U.S. nuclear weapon accident reveal a Japan connection that was kept hidden from the Japanese public for more than half a century. The information gathered by Asahi Shimbun shows that the accident in 1959 occurred at the Osan Air Base in South Korea and involved a fighter affiliated with the U.S. Air Force’s Itazuke Air Base in Fukuoka city. The U.S. military in the 1980s did reveal 32 accidents involving nuclear weapons, but some of the locations were kept confidential. The initial U.S. military report defined the incident at Osan as a “nuclear accident” but only said an explosion and fire broke out when a fuel tank on a fighter jet jettisoned at a base in the Pacific on Jan. 18, 1959. The Japanese affiliation with the fighter and the name of the base were kept secret. One likely reason the U.S. military kept a tight wrap on the accident for so long was the situation in Japan at the time. Three months before the Osan accident, Japan and the United States began negotiations to revise the Japan-U.S. Security Treaty. Huge protests were held against the treaty and anti-nuclear public opinion was strengthening in Japan. “If American planes based in Japan were expected to carry out a nuclear mission, that was something that would be very harmful to the Japanese government,” said Marc Gallicchio, a history professor at Villanova University in Philadelphia. “The United States would have classified all that information.” The documents obtained by Asahi Shimbun showed the aircraft in question belonged to the 8th Tactical Fighter Wing, based at Itazuke. One document states the primary mission of the 8th Tactical Fighter Wing was “to plan, execute and support Fighter Bomber missions with atomic weapons.” At the time of the accident, the fighter was taking part in a training exercise in South Korea. South Korea was the front line of the U.S. nuclear strategy, and the fact that aircraft from Fukuoka were involved meant that Japan played an integral part in that strategy, less than two decades after the United States dropped atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. A Pentagon spokesman said, “It is U.S. policy to neither confirm nor deny” the specific location of nuclear weapons. Joe Catraw, 80, a U.S. Air Force veteran who belonged to the 8th Tactical Fighter Wing, said all training exercises were held in Osan, so the accident must have occurred there. The U.S. military’s report about the accident said: “The bell for practice exercise was sounded. The pilots ran to their aircraft. When the starter button of the accident aircraft was depressed there was an almost simultaneous explosion. The external fuel tanks inadvertently jettisoned. The left 200-gallon tank ruptured and was burning.” Another report said the atomic capsule used in weapons of that period “was not in the vicinity of the aircraft and was not involved in the accident.” That meant no radioactive contamination occurred. The main target of the U.S. military operating in South Korea was Vladivostok, Russia. Hans Kristensen, director of the Nuclear Information Project at the Federation of American Scientists, said the Itazuke base served as the “unsinkable aircraft carrier” for U.S. military strategy because aircraft from Itazuke could fly not only into northern China but also as far away as Vladivostok. “The accident shows that the Itazuke Base of that time played a role in the U.S. military’s nuclear warfare plans,” Niihara Shoji, an international affairs researcher, said. Niihara has uncovered documents that show the U.S. military had planned a nuclear attack against China in 1958 during the crisis over the Taiwan Strait. The situation on the Korean Peninsula in the late 1950s was also more volatile that it is today. “Until the late 1960s, North Korea had a military advantage over South Korea,” said Kan Hideki, a professor at Kyoto University of Foreign Studies who is knowledgeable about Japan-U.S. relations. “U.S. military bases in Japan functioned together with bases on Okinawa and in South Korea to respond to any military situation in the Far East.” (Okada Gen and Okumura Satoshi, “U.S. Fighter from Fukuoka Involved in 1959 Nuclear Accident in South Korea,” Asahi Shimbun, February 5, 2016)


2/6/16:
“North Korea informed the IMO today that it will amend the date of its planned missile launch to between Feb. 7 and 14,” said a South Korean government official. Experts earlier expected that the North would likely launch the rocket around February 16, the birthday of former North Korean leader Kim Jong-il, who died due to heart failure in late 2011. “Weather in the North Korea Dongchang-ri launch site area is expected to be good between February 7 and Feb. 10,” said the official, forecasting the launch could take place as early as on the 7th. (Yonhap, “N. Korea Moves up Planned Rocket Launch to Between Feb. 7-14,” February 6, 2016)


2/7/16:
Defying warnings of tougher sanctions from Washington, North Korea launched a rocket that Western experts believe is part of a program to develop intercontinental ballistic missile technologies. The rocket blasted off from Tongchang-ri, the North’s main satellite launch site near its northwestern border with China, a spokesman for the South Korean Defense Ministry said. President Park Geun-hye of South Korea called an emergency meeting of top national security advisers to address the launch, her office said. South Korea, the United States and Japan also requested an emergency meeting of the United Nations Security Council. In Washington, Secretary of State John Kerry called the launch a “major provocation, threatening not only the security of the Korean Peninsula, but that of the region and the United States as well.” Susan E. Rice, the national security adviser, said it was “a flagrant violation of multiple United Nations Security Council resolutions.” Sung-Yoon Lee, a professor at the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University, said the North Korean leader Kim Jong-un wanted to show off advances in his missile and nuclear programs just before the February 16 birthday of his father, Kim Jong-il, who died in 2011. Pyongyang has timed some of its earlier nuclear and rocket tests to major national anniversaries. With the launch, North Korea was also defying China, which had issued strong appeals not to proceed. In flouting China, the North’s only treaty ally, Kim was showing the ultimate disrespect to the government that has continued to trade with him, including sending oil that keeps the military and the rudimentary economy working. A senior Chinese diplomat, Wu Dawei, traveled to Pyongyang, the North Korean capital, early last week with the specific message that the launch should not go ahead. Chinese analysts conceded that Wu had an impossible assignment, and he returned to Beijing on Thursday night unsuccessful. Kim appears confident that he can continue to show contempt for his ally, believing, it seems, that China fears his ability to turn on it. Beijing has resisted Washington’s effort to place tough sanctions on the North since a nuclear test last month, concerned that the move might destabilize its neighbor. In a statement released after Japan, South Korea and the United States pressed for firmer action, China called for calm and said the major powers should “act cautiously.” Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said, “China expresses regret over the launch with ballistic missile technology carried out by North Korea despite wide opposition from the international community.” Dialogue was the best solution, the statement said, echoing a long-held position by Beijing that talks with North Korea that include the United States and China should be resumed. South Korea said the launch on Sunday showed that efforts to end the North’s nuclear and missile programs through dialogue no longer worked. “They just gave North Korea time to advance its nuclear capabilities,” Cho Tae-yong, first deputy director of national security of the South Korean presidential office, said in a statement. Cho said “the only way to make North Korea abandon its nuclear weapons development” was through “effective and strong sanctions.” “We will continue to apply pressure so North Korea has no option but to change,” he said. Hours after the North declared the success of its launch on Sunday, the United States and South Korea jointly announced that they had begun discussing deployment of the American THAAD ballistic missile defense system. China, the South’s largest trade partner, has warned it would consider the system’s presence in the South a threat to its security. Washington and its regional allies, South Korea and Japan, deployed Aegis destroyers and PAC-3 missile interceptors in case debris from the rocket hurtled toward them. North Korea is widely believed to have at least several nuclear weapons. Although North Korea can learn much about the technology to build ballistic missiles from satellite launches, putting a satellite into orbit does not guarantee an ability to deliver a nuclear warhead on an intercontinental ballistic missile. North Korea has never tested a ballistic-missile version of its Unha-series rockets. After four nuclear tests by the North, Western analysts were still unsure whether the country had mastered the technology to build a warhead small enough to mount on a long-range missile. They were also debating how close the country had come to acquiring the ability to build a warhead that could survive the intense heat while re-entering the atmosphere, as well as a guidance system capable of delivering a warhead close to a target. The Unha-3 rocket, if modified to carry a 2,200-pound warhead instead of a satellite, could have enough range to reach Alaska and possibly Hawaii, David Wright, co-director of the Global Security Program at the Union of Concerned Scientists, wrote in his blog on February 5. (Choe Sang-hun, “North Korean Rocket Launch Called ‘Provocation,’” New York Times, February 7, 2016, p. A-6) “It’s presumed that the projectile has entered into orbit,” a military official said, indicating that the North successfully launched the long-range rocket. The official, however, qualified the assessment by saying that additional analysis is needed to confirm whether the satellite is operating normally in its orbit. Earlier in the day, South Korea’s Aegis destroyer’s radar detected the rocket lifting off at 9:30 a.m. from North Korea’s northwest Dongchang-ri launch site and concluded that it was a long-range rocket after studying the trajectory. Upon the launch on the west coast, the rocket flew southward, dropping its first stage into the Yellow Sea off the Korean Peninsula at 9:32 a.m. The first stage exploded in midair and splashed down in some 270 pieces, according to the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Four minutes later, the missile disappeared from the military’s surveillance radar at about the same time it shed its fairing southwest of South Korea’s Jeju Island, the JCS said. The route matches what the North previously told United Nations agencies. “South Korea and the U.S. are jointly studying whether the disappearance means the launch was a failure or there were other technical issues,” a JCS official said. The allies are also examining the location where the second stage of the missile may have fallen, the official said. (Yonhap, “N. Korea Launches Long-Range Rocket,” February 7, 2016) “We can definitely say that this was an attempted space launch,” said Melissa Hanham, a nuclear expert at the James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies. North Korea previously fired a Kwangmyongsong-3 on an ­Unha-3 (“galaxy”) missile into orbit in December 2012, the month that North Korea marked the first anniversary of the death of Kim Jong Il, the current leader’s father. North Korea has said the launches were of satellites intended for scientific purposes, but analysts and many governments see this as a disguised missile test. “This kind of rocket is designed as a space launch vehicle. Before we can consider it an intercontinental ballistic missile, there are a number of modifications that have to be made,” Hanham said. A space rocket goes into the atmosphere to launch a satellite into orbit, but an intercontinental ballistic missile needs to return to Earth from the atmosphere to reach its target — and deliver a warhead. Jim Walsh, a research associate in the Security Studies Program at MIT, said that even though most of North Korea’s rocket and missile tests had been failures and Pyongyang was still using liquid-launched rockets, a technology now considered “archaic” everywhere else, there was still reason for concern. “This doesn’t mean that they’re not making progress. The more tests they do, the more they learn, and they’re beavering away trying to improve their technology,” he said. “And it also means that at some level, they’re still able to evade sanctions.” (Anna Fifield, “North Korea Launches ‘Satellite,’ Sparks Fears about Long-Range Missile Program,” Washington Post, February 7, 2016) North Korea’s recently launched satellite has achieved stable orbit but is not believed to have transmitted data back to Earth, U.S. sources said of a launch that has so far failed to convince experts that Pyongyang has significantly advanced its rocket technology. “It’s in a stable orbit now. They got the tumbling under control,” a U.S. official said on Tuesday. That is unlike the North’s previous satellite, launched in 2012, which never stabilized, the official said. However, the new satellite was not thought to be transmitting, another source added. Missile experts say North Korea appears to have repeated its earlier success in putting an object into space, rather than broken new ground. It used a nearly identical design to the 2012 launch and is probably years away from building a long-range nuclear missile, the experts said. Vice Admiral James Syring, director of the U.S. Missile Defense Agency, told reporters that North Korea’s launch was “provocative, disturbing and alarming,” but could not be equated with a test of an intercontinental ballistic missile. He said North Korea had never attempted to flight test the KN-08 intercontinental ballistic missile it is developing. Syring said U.S. missile defenses would be able to defend against the new North Korean missile given efforts to improve the reliability of the U.S. system and increase in the number of ground-based U.S. interceptors from 30 to 44. “I’m very confident that we’re, one, ahead of it today, and that the funded improvements will keep us ahead of … where it may be by 2020,” he said. (Andrea Shalal and David Brunnstrom, “North Korea Satellite in Stable Orbit But Not Seen Transmitting — U.S. Sources,” Reuters, February 9, 2016) Experts said Sunday’s rocket was likely bigger than those of previous tests. Sawaoka Akira, president of Daido University in Nagoya and an expert on rocket technology, pointed out that the latest rocket’s first stage separated several minutes earlier than that of the December 2012 launch. This means the engine power was bolstered and the rocket flew faster than the previous one, Sawaoka told Japan Times. It also means the rocket is able to carry a heavier payload. “This is technological progress. Eventually a rocket would be able to carry something like a nuclear warhead” if the North succeeds in further improving the technology, Sawaoka said. According to the South Korean Defense Ministry, the first stage exploded into more than 270 pieces after separating from the rocket at around 9:37 a.m. Sunday over the Yellow Sea west of the Korean Peninsula. But the North may have intentionally destroyed the section because Seoul retrieved the 2012 rocket’s first stage from the sea for analysis, said Takesada Hideshi, a professor and noted Korean affairs expert at Takushoku University’s graduate school in Tokyo. “You can’t say (the test-firing) was a failure just because the first stage exploded,” Takesada said. The test-firing was “largely successful” because the rocket was reportedly able to send an object into Earth orbit, he said. The developments came as Pyongyang works to eventually develop an intercontinental ballistic missile that can strike Washington or New York, Takesada said. According to the Defense Ministry’s 2015 white paper, a successfully developed variant of the Taepodong-2 ballistic missile could fly more than 10,000 km with a warhead weighing less than a ton. Such a range would put most of Western Europe, Asia and the Western U.S. within striking distance. Using what it learned in the test launches, the North’s long-range ballistic “missiles could have ranges that potentially reach the central, western and other areas of the U.S. mainland,” the Defense Ministry concluded in the white paper. Currently, the Taepodong-2 is believed to still be in the experimental stages. Experts say the North faces a number of technological hurdles before it is able to develop a functioning ICBM as well as master the miniaturization process needed to mount a warhead on the missile. Takesada noted that one key hurdle is to develop heat-resistant materials that allow warheads to endure the intense heat generated upon re-entry from space. It also faces an uphill battle in making a missile that can be launched at the drop of a hat. The Taepodong-2 uses liquid — not solid — fuels, which make it almost impossible for Pyongyang to have the missile on stand-by for immediate launch. According to Japanese government sources, a liquid-fuel rocket such as the Taepodong-2 would need to be launched within a few days — possibly a week at the most — once the fuel is injected because its strong acidic properties would badly damage the fuel tank. Experts appear to be split over whether Pyongyang has already succeeded in developing a miniaturized nuclear warhead. In May last year, Pyongyang claimed it has succeeded in creating a nuclear warhead small enough to fit on the tip of a ballistic missile. In response, U.S. National Security Council spokesman Patrick Ventrell disputed Pyongyang’s claim. “Our assessment of North Korea’s nuclear capabilities has not changed,” he said in a statement at the time, according to CNN. “We do not think that they have that capacity,” he was quoted as saying. However, the Defense Ministry, in its 2015 white paper, refused to rule out the possibility that the North had already mastered that critical technology. “In general, miniaturizing a nuclear weapon small enough to be mounted on a ballistic missile requires a considerably high degree of technological capacity,” the paper said. “However, considering that the United States, the Soviet Union, the United Kingdom, France and China succeeded in acquiring such technology by as early as the 1960s … the possibility that North Korea has achieved the miniaturization of nuclear weapons and has acquired nuclear warheads cannot be ruled out,” the paper read. (Yoshida Reiji and Mie Ayako, “North Korea’s Missile Technology Blitz Stokes Concern among Experts, Officials in Japan,” Japan Times, February 8, 2016) The rocket launched by North Korea had a longer range and carried a heavier payload than the one used to put a satellite in orbit in 2012, indicating that Pyongyang had made modest advances in its rocket technology, the South Korean Defense Ministry said on February 10. The rocket, the Kwangmyongsong, or shining star, put a satellite into orbit nine minutes and 29 seconds after its takeoff from the Tongchang-ri launch site in the country’s northwest, according to Defense Ministry officials, who briefed journalists on the condition of anonymity. It resembled the Unha-3 rocket that North Korea used to launch a satellite in 2012, but the officials said the satellite on Sunday was heavier. The ministry’s analysis indicated that the new rocket, if successfully reconfigured as a missile, could fly more than 7,400 miles with a warhead of 1,100 to 1,300 pounds, compared with 6,200 miles for the Unha-3 launched in 2012 — in both cases, far enough to reach the West Coast of the United States. But North Korea has never flight-tested a long-range ballistic missile, which requires technology that enables a warhead to survive re-entry into the atmosphere. It is also unclear how close North Korea has come to miniaturizing a nuclear bomb so it could be mounted on a missile. (Choe Sang-hun, “Advances Seen in Rocket Fired by North Korea,” New York Times, February 10, 2016, p. A-10) Using awnings and other cover, North Korea kept Japan, the United States and South Korea largely in the dark about its preparations for the February 7 ballistic missile launch. But Pyongyang left enough clues in the open for the three countries to make calculated guesses on what was occurring and eventually an accurate prediction on when the missile would be fired. Pyongyang’s clandestine efforts began when a freight train arrived at the station near the missile launch pad in Tongchang-ri, North Phyongan province, soon after North Korea conducted its fourth nuclear test on January 6, according to several sources with knowledge of sensitive intelligence. However, Western intelligence was unable to determine the content of the cargo because North Korea covered the train platform with a large awning and shielding boards. “North Korea did not want satellites to pick up what the cargo was or to allow radar waves to deflect off the object,” one intelligence source said. Based on the number of freight cars and trucks, intelligence officials believed that parts for two upgraded Taepondong-2 ballistic missiles were transported to the launch site. North Korea launched similar missiles in December 2012. Delivering parts for two missiles “is the same phenomenon as the last launch,” another source said. “That was designed to guard against defects in the rocket and insufficient parts.” Six to eight spy satellites operated by Japan and the United States are believed to cover the Korean Peninsula. But they could not pick up on the missile parts when the cargo was moved to the processing building for assembly. “Infrared rays are used at night, but they are ineffective if there is no heat source,” another intelligence source said. A large awning also covered the area around the launch site. But intelligence could still detect more active movement of vehicles and personnel at the site. One change occurred in late January when several water cannon trucks were deployed to the launch site area. Intelligence officials in Japan, the United States and South Korea believed those trucks were put in place to guard against a possible fire when fuel was being pumped through underground pipes. Such movements led to conjecture that the missile had been installed at the launch pad. The fuel pumping process is believed to have been completed by around February 3 because that is when the water cannon trucks left the launch site area. Around that time, the three nations intercepted telemetry test signals transmitted from the missile to the launch site. Telemetry test signals are used to confirm the trajectory of a missile. Weather conditions were also a factor that led officials in Japan, the United States and South Korea to determine that the missile launch would likely be held on February 7. The forecast called for cloudy skies for several days from February 8 and even possible snow, which could affect the missile equipment. The weather around the launch site was clear on February 7. The correct prediction enabled a South Korean Aegis destroyer deployed in the Yellow Sea near the launch site to pick up the trajectory of the North Korean missile about a minute after it was launched around 9:30 a.m. on February 7. (Makino Yoshihiro, “North Korea Went All out to Keep Missile Launch under Trilateral Radar,” Asahi Shimbun, February 9, 2016) North Korea’s weekend rocket launch repeated earlier success rather than breaking new ground, using a nearly identical design from a 2012 launch, experts said, adding the reclusive country probably remained years from building a long-range nuclear missile. The rocket was based on engines taken from its massive stockpile of mid-range missiles based on Soviet-era technology and electrical parts too rudimentary to be targeted by a global missile control regime, the experts said. The three-stage launch vehicle, named Kwangmyongsong, separated its boosters successfully and put an object, which the North says is an earth observation satellite, into orbit, South Korea said on Tuesday. A signal from the satellite had yet to be detected, Seoul said. The object North Korea launched in 2012 never sent a detectable signal. “I suspect the aim of the launch was to repeat the success, which itself provides considerable engineering knowledge,” said Michael Elleman, a missile expert at the London-based International Institute for Strategic Studies. The South Korean navy recovered parts of the first-stage booster but failed to retrieve a significant section as it did in 2012 because the stage self-destructed after lift-off, probably with explosives detonated by a timer, the South’s military said. South Korea said the launch resembled the one in 2012. The shape of the rockets was similar, as were the locations where the first and second stages splashed into the sea, it said. The U.N. Security Council has imposed layers of sanctions against the North for its nuclear tests and long-range rocket launches going back to 2006, banning arms trade and money flow that can fund its arms program. But the North has managed to circumvent those measures in pursuing a rocket program, widely suspected to be aimed at building an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) that could threaten the continental United States, and its fourth nuclear test last month. “Sanctions raise the cost and impact reliability, but a determined country can access the needed items if it is a priority acquisition,” Elleman said. After the 2012 launch, South Korea retrieved a number of parts associated with the first-stage booster, including one of the steering engines, a nearly intact section of the fuel tank that contained propellant, wiring and pressure sensors. Some of those components were imported, “ranging from cannibalized Soviet Scud parts to equipment produced in the United States, Europe and Asia,” said Jeffrey Lewis, a nuclear expert at the Middlebury Institute of International Studies. “Most of the items are available commercially, off-the-shelf and are not controlled. The underlying components are less important than North Korea’s ability to integrate them in a functioning rocket program,” he said. If the Kwangmyongsong was powered by the same system as the Unha-3 launched in 2012, it used a cluster of Nodong missile engines with a thrust of about 27 tonnes each encased in an aluminum-magnesium alloy body, welded unevenly by hand. North Korea is believed to have more than 200 medium-range Nodong missiles with a range of 1,300 km (807 miles), developed from Scud missiles with Soviet technology. South Korea said it believes the North’s rockets can fly more than 10,000 km (6,200 miles), putting the mainland United States in range. The boosters likely performed similarly in terms of thrust and burn time to the Unha-3, indicating the North again launched a vehicle that would be optimized to launch a satellite, not a ballistic missile which would require higher thrust. “Increasing thrust is a delicate issue, and depending on how much, you quickly have to completely re-develop the whole engine,” German aerospace engineer Markus Schiller said. While sanctions have not stopped the North’s rocket development, they likely limit what it can make or secure in large quantities of material, equipment and fuel that are needed to quickly make advances. Some experts believe the North is a decade or more from using what it learns from its space launch vehicles to building an ICBM capable of threatening the U.S. west coast, which would have to be vastly bigger than the last two rockets launched. The North has also demonstrated no evidence of significant work in building and testing a nuclear warhead rugged and stable enough to withstand the stress of re-entry to atmosphere and detonate as intended when it reaches its target. Most experts believe it has also yet to show, after four nuclear tests over 10 years, all with relatively small yields, that it has successfully weaponized a nuclear device, let alone miniaturized one to fit on a missile. Schiller said if the North were to have made real progress, there is no reason not to demonstrate an advanced rocket rather than turning again to what is probably “their old workhorse.” “I assume that they are doing the best they can with the Unha, showing a very slow but continuous progress toward a small satellite launch capability,” he said. “Turning this program into a real weapon that is deployed in numbers and could hit cities at the push of a button will take decades at that pace.” (Jack Kim and David Brunnstrom, “North Korea Turns to ‘Old Workhorse’ Rocket to Repeat Past Success,” Reuters, February 9, 2016) John Schilling: “The US Joint Space Operations Center (JSpOC) has released the orbital elements of two new bodies in stable orbits, with the identifiers “KMS-4” for the Kwangmyongsong-4 satellite and “Unha 3 R/B” for the launch vehicle’s upper stage rocket body. In short, this is not a hoax. Images of the rocket departing the launch pad indicate an overall length of about 30 meters, the same as the Unha-3 rocket from North Korea’s 2012 launch. To the extent that we can tell from low-resolution images, the shape and the engine exhaust plumes are also nearly identical. North Korea did politely tell the mariners and airmen of the world where to expect the expended rocket stages to fall, and these also match the 2012 launch. The satellite itself is in a very similar orbit to 2012. While many had expected North Korea to debut a new and larger rocket, and the new launch pad was clearly built for a larger rocket, that launch is still in the future. North Korea might call this new rocket an Unha-4, but it is almost certainly an Unha-3 with, at most, minor modifications. …But it does seem likely that the first stage did explode—after safely separating from the rocket. That’s a change from the 2012 launch, where the first stage fell into the ocean relatively intact and was recovered by the South Korean Navy. This could have been a late malfunction or a reaction involving unburnt residual propellant, but it could also be that the North Koreans didn’t want their southern neighbors to get quite so good a look at their rocket this time. Self-destruct mechanisms are frequently added to stages for “range safety,” to make sure no wayward rocket can land on a populated area, and it would be little trouble to deliberately activate one as soon as the first stage has done its job. Whatever minor modifications the DPRK may have made to the first stage will likely remain obscure. …North Korea claims the satellite was launched into an orbit that ranges from 494.6 to 500 kilometers above the earth, inclined at 97.4 degrees from the equator. JSpOC’s data indicates 466 to 501 kilometers and a 97.5 degree inclination. If we trust JSpOC more than we do North Korean newscasters, it looks like they missed their target by a little bit. The orbit they were aiming for was something called a “sun-synchronous orbit,” which is particularly suitable for Earth observation satellites as it passes over targets at exactly the same local time every day. This one will drift, but should still be serviceable. The Unha-3 rocket can probably carry at least 200 kilograms of payload to such an orbit, though its last satellite was reportedly only half that weight. Until the North has mastered the basics of satellite technology, there is little reason for it to try anything bigger or more ambitious at the moment; and little reason to use a bigger rocket that it may be developing either. The Unha-3 worked just fine three years ago; it’s the satellites that need work. Presumably when they are confident with basic technology-demonstration satellites they will move on to bigger rockets with more capable payloads. But the obvious concern is that North Korea is testing ballistic missiles and only pretending to care about satellites. The Unha-3 or Unha-4 could certainly be used as an ICBM. The upper stages generate only about half the thrust we would expect if it were built for that purpose, but it could probably still carry a payload of almost 1000 kilograms to a range of 10,000 kilometers. And with two successful tests under its belt, it could probably do so reliably. What it can’t do, quite yet, is hit anything of value. North Korea can probably build a nuclear warhead light enough for the Unha to carry, and they may well have tested one. What it has not done is tested a reentry vehicle that would survive hitting the atmosphere at roughly 16,000 miles per hour. That’s not an insurmountable technical challenge, and we expect North Korea will succeed when it gets around to it, but the North will want to test its technology at least once. Of equal importance, the North still needs to work on the rocket guidance system. If this launch had been aimed at a point 10,000 kilometers distant on Earth, rather than the perfect sun-synchronous orbit we assume was the target, it would have fallen almost 50 kilometers short and 10 kilometers west of its aim point. That’s an improvement over last time, but still a ways to go. And really, even if North Korea can turn the Unha-3 into a rocket that delivers 1,000 kilogram warheads with perfect reliability and pinpoint accuracy, there is still the fundamental problem that it weighs almost 100 tons, can only be launched from fixed sites and requires so much preparation that we can see it being readied days before launch. That doesn’t make for a useful weapon. What North Korea almost certainly wants for a weapon is a much smaller, road-mobile intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM). They are working on one of those, but we don’t expect it to be operational until sometime after 2020. For now, North Korea is making small steps towards improving its rocket and satellite capabilities. What it will do with the satellites, we are not yet sure. That path may involve larger and more powerful rockets in the future. A real ICBM capability comes from following a different path, longer and less certain, and one where modest improvements in the Unha series of SLVs are of little relevance. Even if North Korea does try to adapt the Unha to serve as an interim ICBM, it will probably need one or two more tests—and the construction of hardened silos to replace the current open launch site. If the rocket is nothing new, the most important thing to look for in coming weeks is any indication that the satellite is doing something more than tumbling out of control. Even amateur astronomers will likely be able to tell that much from the flickering of reflected sunlight. If it can maintain a stable orientation, that will be an important step forward for North Korea. If it can perform any sort of maneuver using an onboard propulsion system that would be a bigger step forward, and one we would likely know about when JSpOC issues new orbit calculations. Radio signals from the satellite would mark critical progress for North Korea in another area, particularly if they occur over a prolonged period and show signs of two-way communication. Finally, if it is an Earth observation satellite, they may release images to the press to brag about how well it is working—but we will have to be careful not to be fooled if they release copies of someone else’s satellite images. To address the concern that this might be a missile in disguise, we’ll have to look closer to Earth. First, if the North Koreans are planning to deploy a weaponized Unha, they’ll need to test it at least once more to improve the accuracy, and they’ll almost certainly want to test a reentry vehicle at the same time—there’s no point in getting the launch perfect if the warhead is going to veer off course on reentry. They will also want to practice their launch preparation procedures. They were able to ready this rocket for launch significantly faster than they did in 2012, with the final, highly visible preparations taking only a few days instead of weeks; but for a weapon, they would want to bring that down to hours instead of days. If we see them repeatedly setting up and taking down rockets on the pad, that would be a dangerous sign. But even hours of preparation would probably be too long in wartime, and the North Koreans would want to hedge their bets by building hardened silos. The North Koreans are good at camouflage, but the Unha may be too big a rocket even for them to hide. Should anyone find silos set up to hold Unha-sized rockets, any pretense that this is just a satellite program would vanish and we would know that North Korea is deploying ICBMs. So far, we haven’t seen any sign of that.” (John Schilling, “North Korea’s Space Launch: An Initial Assessment,” 38North, February 9, 2016) Michael Elleman: “…American efforts to deter and prevent North Korea from flight testing the KN-08, Musudan or other long-range ballistic missile must take priority over unwelcomed satellite launches using the Unha or equivalent rockets. The most recent launch is very nearly a repeat of the December 2012 firing, although the Kwangmyongsong-4 satellite is reported to weigh 200 kg, about twice as much as the previous one. This may help explain why the designated splash down zones for the first and second stages were slightly less than for the 2012 firing, though other possibilities may have contributed to the change as well. The Kwangmyongsong-4’s orbital parameters (501 x 466 km, at 97.5 degrees) differ [5] from the sun-synchronous orbit North Korea forecasted, suggesting that the Unha rocket experienced a small aiming deviation. Further, the US announced that the satellite was tumbling in its orbit, another sign that the mechanism that frees the satellite from the third stage did not perform as expected. Nevertheless, North Korea succeeded for the second time in placing an object into orbit. Satellite launches, especially those lifting payloads to low-earth orbits, initially boost upwards, but then accelerate the payload on a path nearly parallel with the earth’s surface to reach the velocity needed to sustain the orbit. Low-thrust engines are typically used during the latter phase of the boosted trajectory to achieve the needed radial velocity. The maximum altitude of the payload is on the order of 200 to 500 km, depending on the orbital parameters required by the mission. Ballistic missiles, on the other hand, boost the warhead to high altitudes, allowing the payload to coast downrange to a maximum distance. A 10,000 km range intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) reaches a peak altitude of more than 1,000 km when on a minimum energy (i.e. maximum range) trajectory. Lifting a warhead to such heights requires high-thrust engines to avoid gravity losses while accelerating upward. With the exception of the July 2006 firing of the Taepodong-2, which exploded too early in its liftoff trajectory to determine its mission, all of the other large rockets launched by North Korea were designed to maximize performance as a satellite launcher. In each case, the Taepodong-1 and Unha rockets flew on trajectories fully consistent with a satellite launch. Further, the Taepodong-1 used a low-thrust (Isayev 5D67) engine scavenged from an S-200 (NATO designated SA-5) air-defense missile on the second stage. Flight data displayed in the North Korean control room during the December 2012 Unha-3 launch, indicate that the second stage is a modified Scud-B missile with a larger diameter airframe to hold more fuel. The third stage is likely similar to that found on Iran’s Safir carrier rocket, which consists of vernier (i.e. steering) engines from either the Soviet R-27 (NATO designated SS-N-6) submarine-launched ballistic missile (SLBM), or another Soviet system, such as the ROTA, which was never fielded by the Soviet Union. The Unha’s use of long-burning, low-thrust upper stages is optimal for space missions, though if used as a ballistic missile, the low-thrust engines would suffer significant gravity losses during its upward trajectory, robbing the missile of roughly 800 km of range. Without question, rockets designed to boost a satellite into orbit and long-range ballistic missiles employ many of the same technologies, key components and operational features. There are, however, key characteristics that differentiate satellite launchers from ballistic missiles, apart from the payload itself. Firstly, ballistic missile payloads must survive the rigors of re-entry into the earth’s atmosphere. Protecting a long-range missile’s payload from the extreme heat and structural loads experienced during re-entry requires the development and production of special materials, as well as testing and validation under real conditions. Secondly, as discussed previously, satellite launch vehicles and long-range ballistic missiles employ distinctly different trajectories to fulfil their respective missions. The different trajectories call for different propulsion systems for optimal performance. One cannot simply swap out one engine for another and expect the missile to perform with high dependability. Multiple flight tests of the new configuration are needed to validate performance and reliability. A third, less obvious difference lies with the operational requirements. Before flight, satellite launchers, unlike their ballistic missile counterparts, are prepared over a period of many days, if not weeks. Components and subsystems are checked and verified prior to launch, and the mission commander has the flexibility to wait for ideal weather before initiating the countdown. If an anomaly emerges during the countdown, engineers can delay the launch, identify and fix the problem, and restart the process. Recall that the Unha rockets launched to date have required at least a week, if not a full month to assemble and prepare for launch. In contrast, ballistic missiles, like other military systems, must perform reliably under a variety of operational conditions, with little or no warning. These operational requirements impose a more rigorous validation scheme, which includes an extensive flight-test program. Normally, only after successfully completing validation testing is a missile deemed to be combat ready. This latter requirement and the need to ensure pre-launch survivability explain why the Soviets and Americans never converted a satellite launcher into a ballistic missile, though the reverse process occurred frequently. China developed its early long-range missiles (DF-3, DF-4, and DF-5) and satellite launchers (CZ-2 and CZ-3) in parallel. However, running the developmental programs in tandem did not obviate the need to conduct a full set of flight trials over many years for the military missiles. Nor did the parallel programs shorten the development timeline significantly. North Korea could certainly opt to modify the Unha satellite launch platform for use as a ballistic missile, though the transformation would not be simple or quick. There would still be a need to flight test the transformed Unha in a ballistic missile mode. If North Korea built a ballistic missile using the first two stages of an Unha-3, the notional missile might achieve a maximum range of 4,000 to 6,000 km, depending on configuration details. To reach the continental US, a powerful third stage would have to be developed and added to the first two stages of the Unha-3. The notional missile would remain poorly suited for use as a ballistic missile, however, especially if the low-thrust Scud engine was retained by the second stage. The Soviet Union considered an analogous upgrade in 1957, when the Yangel Design Bureau suggested combining the main boosters of the R-12 and R-14 missiles to create the R-16 ICBM. The R-16 was successfully developed, but only after substantial redesign, including the development of new engines using more energetic propellants. The Soviet experience suggests that North Korea might find it challenging and time consuming to build an operational ICBM derived mainly from Unha-3 hardware. North Korea could contemplate using the Unha-3 as the basis for an ICBM for emergency use in the direst of circumstances. The missile would weigh more than 90 tons, making it too large and cumbersome to be viably deployed on a mobile launch platform. Silo deployment might be possible, but North Korea is a relatively small country, with limited strategic depth, and would find it difficult to conceal the location of its silos. All of North Korea’s silos would be fewer than 200 km from the coastline and thus vulnerable to pre-emptive strikes by advanced military powers, such as the US, or boost-phase intercept using SM-3 interceptors deployed on Aegis ships patrolling near the Korean peninsula. For an ICBM, a new missile design seems more likely. In April 2012, North Korea unveiled mock-ups of a mobile, long-range missile, dubbed Hwaseong-13 or, in US nomenclature, KN-08, during a military parade in Pyongyang. The missile has never been tested, and its origins and hardware configuration are not known. The configuration of the KN-08 has also undergone modifications, as suggested by the most recent display of the missile during a military parade in Pyongyang. If propellants more energetic than those used by the Unha-3, Nodong or Scud missiles were employed, the new missile might be capable of intercontinental range. But until it is flight tested, such possibilities remain speculative. There are reports that North Korea has already deployed the KN-08, as well as the Musudan. Because neither of these missiles have been flight tested, Pyongyang would necessarily have to assume great risk of failure should it attempt to fire them in anger. A cursory review of first- and second-generation development of long-range ballistic missiles—and satellite launchers—in the US, Soviet Union, China and France show that a new missile is more likely to fail than succeed over the first half-dozen flights. North Korea’s Unha rocket failed three times before succeeding. While an untested ballistic missile could be fired during a crisis that threatens directly the Kim Jong Un regime, it cannot be viewed as a reliable strategic capability. North Korea has now successfully boosted two objects into orbit using variations of the Unha rocket. This achievement comes after three failed attempts using an Unha rocket, and one failed Taepodong-1 rocket. The results suggest that North Korean engineers have learned how to design, assemble and operate a multi-stage rocket, record enough flight data to identify and fix malfunctioning subsystems or processes, and systematically improve a newly developed system’s performance and dependability. Future satellite launches using Nodong and Scud technologies will likely enhance the reliability of the Unha rocket, and facilitate the development of a larger version of the Unha, perhaps the Unha-9. The accumulated experience and knowledge of past and future satellite launches will not significantly contribute to the design and development of a viable and reliable long-range ballistic missile. As history has demonstrated, satellite launch activity does not provide a shortcut. If North Korea wants to have a credible nuclear capability, one that threatens the United States directly, it will necessarily have to commit to an extensive flight-test program involving the KN-08 and Musudan ballistic missiles. Having never flight tested the Musudan and KN-08, Pyongyang has no measure of their respective performance and dependability. Threatening to use or firing the untested missiles would be risky adventure. First- and second-generation, long-range ballistic missiles developed by the US, Soviets, Chinese and French failed their first ten flight tests more often than they succeeded. The Unha failed on its first three firings. Thus, Pyongyang would have to assume great risk of failure if it threatened to launch or fired the KN-08, Musudan or other long-range missile before it validated its reliability. It is therefore highly unlikely that Pyongyang would elect to fire its unproven missiles except under the direst of circumstances, such as the regime coming under direct military threat by a foreign army. Stopping North Korea from flight testing either or both of these missiles, or similar long-range systems, must be a strategic priority for the Washington, second only to preventing Pyongyang from transferring nuclear material or technology, and detonating additional nuclear bombs. If North Korea succeeds in developing the KN-08, or equivalent, it could threaten the US mainland and erode America’s long-standing extended deterrence commitments to South Korea, Japan and other regional allies. Deterring future satellite launches is important, but not at the cost of preventing long-range missile tests.” (Michael Elleman, “North Korea Launches Another Large Rocket: Consequences and Options,” 38North, February 10, 2016)

KCNA: “The DPRK National Aerospace Development Administration on Sunday issued a report on the successful launch of earth observation satellite Kwangmyongsong-4. The report said: Scientists and technicians of the DPRK National Aerospace Development Administration succeeded in putting the newly developed earth observation satellite Kwangmyongsong-4 into its orbit according to the 2016 plan of the 5-year program for national aerospace development. Carrier rocket Kwangmyongsong blasted off from the Sohae Space Center in Cholsan County, North Phyongan Province at 09:00 on February 7, Juche 105(2016). The satellite entered its preset orbit at 09:09:46, 9 minutes and 46 seconds after the lift-off. The satellite is going round the polar orbit at 494.6 km perigee altitude and 500 km apogee altitude at the angle of inclination of 97.4 degrees. Its cycle is 94 minutes and 24 seconds. Installed in Kwangmyongsong-4 are measuring apparatuses and telecommunications apparatuses needed for observing the earth. The complete success made in the Kwangmyongsong-4 lift-off is the proud fruition of the great Workers’ Party of Korea’s policy on attaching importance to science and technology and an epochal event in developing the country’s science, technology, economy and defense capability by legitimately exercising the right to use space for independent and peaceful purposes. The fascinating vapor of Juche satellite trailing in the clear and blue sky in spring of February on the threshold of the Day of the Shining Star, the greatest national holiday of Kim Il Sung’s Korea, is a gift of most intense loyalty presented by our space scientists and technicians to the great Comrade Kim Jong Un, our dignified party, state and people. The National Aerospace Development Administration of the DPRK will in the future, too, launch more satellites of Juche into the space, true to the great Workers’ Party of Korea’s policy of attaching importance to science and technology.” (KCNA, “National Aerospace Development Administration Issues Report on Satellite Launch,” February 7, 2016)

South Korea and the United States have agreed to begin negotiations for the deployment of an advanced American air defense system on South Korean soil, officials said, despite opposition from China and Russia. The announcement on the controversial defense system, Terminal High Altitude Area Defense, was given just hours after North Korea launched a long-range missile as part of the continual push of its intercontinental ballistic missile tests. “The U.S. and South Korea have decided to start official discussion on the possibility of U.S. Forces Korea’s deployment of THAAD as part of measures to upgrade the South Korea-U.S. alliance’s missile defense posture against North Korea’s advancing threats,” Yoo Jeh-seung, deputy minister for policy, said in a joint briefing with Lt. Gen. Thomas Vandal, the commander of USFK’s Eighth Army. Vandal said the decision was made upon USFK Commander Gen. Curtis Scaparrotti’s recommendation, adding that “it is time to move forward on the issue.” (Yonhap, “S. Korea, U.S. to Begin THAAD Deployment Talks in S. Korea,” February 7, 2016)

South Korea says it will further restrict the entry of its nationals to a jointly run factory park in North Korea. The number of South Koreans staying in the Kaesong industrial complex, the last major cooperation project between the rivals, will be decreased to 500 from the current 650, according to South Korea’s Unification Ministry. South Korea took similar measures after the North’s nuclear test last month. (Korea Herald, “Seoul Restricts Entry to Joint Park with North,” February 7, 2016)

The U.N. Security Council has strongly condemned North Korea’s long-range rocket launch, vowing to “expeditiously adopt a new resolution” with significant measures, and calling the launch a “dangerous and serious violation.” “The members of the Security Council strongly condemn this launch,” Venezuelan U.N. Ambassador Rafael Dario Ramirez Carreno, the council’s president for February, told reporters while reading a press statement after the closed-door meeting. “The members of the Security Council underscore this launch as well as any other DPRK launch that use ballistic missile technology even if characterized as a satellite launch or a space launch vehicle contribute to the DPRK’s nuclear weapon delivery system and is a serious violation of the Security Council resolutions,” he said. The Security Council also noted its intent to develop “significant measures” in a new resolution in response to the North’s latest nuclear test while also recalling previous warnings that it would take “future significant measures” in the event of another DPRK launch. “In line with this commitment and the gravity of this most recent violation, the council will adopt expeditiously a new security council resolution with such measures in response to this dangerous and serious violation,” the council president said. The council also expressed its commitment to continue working toward a “peaceful, diplomatic and political solution to the situation leading to the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula,” the ambassador said. The launch came as the U.N. Security Council has been struggling in negotiations to put together a new resolution imposing sanctions on Pyongyang for the nuclear test because China has been reluctant to impose harsh measures on its communist neighbor. The rocket launch is expected to help break the deadlock as China would find it difficult to oppose tough measures any longer, analysts said. China’s cooperation is key to any sanctions resolution because it’s a veto-holding permanent member. “We are hopeful that China, like all council members, will see the grave threat to regional, international peace and security, see the importance of adopting tough, unprecedented measures, breaking new ground,” U.S. Ambassador to the U.S. Samantha Power told reporters. She also said she will ensure the Security Council imposes serious consequences on the North. “DPRK’s latest transgressions require our response to be even firmer,” she said. “I understand that there was a consensus on the need to put together a sanctions resolution, which has been under discussions since the nuclear test, at an early date and with stronger content,” South Korean Ambassador to the U.N. Oh Joon said. “Existing Security Council sanctions on North Korea are mostly related directly to weapons,” Oh said. “I think most Security Council members think that it’s time for powerful sanctions that go beyond that, now that it’s obvious they were unable to stop North Korea’s weapons development.” (Yonhap, “U.N. Security Council Strongly Condemns N. Korean Launch,” February 8, 2016)


2/8/16:
A North Korean patrol boat crossed the de facto western maritime border between the two Koreas following the North’s long-range rocket launch a day earlier, a South Korean military official said. The South’s Navy fired five rounds of warning shots against the North’s patrol boat, which trespassed across the maritime border in the Yellow Sea, widely known as the Northern Limit Line (NLL), at around 6:55 a.m., according to the official. The vessel retreated northward about 20 minutes after it intruded into South Korean territory. (Yonhap, “N. Korean Patrol Boat Crosses Inter-Korean Sea Border in Yellow Sea,” February 8, 2016)

Prime Minister Abe Shinzo said he is preparing to slap unilateral sanctions against North Korea for its “intolerable” act on firing a long-range ballistic missile that flew over islands of Okinawa Prefecture. “To resolve the abduction issue, nuclear development, missile launch and other problems (involving North Korea) comprehensively, we are moving to impose our own sanctions,” Abe said at a meeting of government and ruling Liberal Democratic Party officials. “We will promptly map out the specific contents of our sanctions so that we can take firm and strict action against North Korea,” he said. Abe yesterday issued instructions to prepare the unilateral sanctions at an emergency meeting of the National Security Council in Tokyo. (Asahi Shimbun, “Japan Moves toward Unilateral Sanctions over North Korea’s Missile Launch,” February 8, 2016)

The United States does not rule out imposing sanctions on North Korea similar to the 2005 financial restrictions that had almost cut off the communist nation from the international financial system, the White House spokesman said. “I wouldn’t rule out additional steps like that,” White House press secretary Josh Earnest said at a briefing in response to a question whether unilateral sanctions the U.S. is currently considering against Pyongyang would be different from the 2005 measures. Earnest said, however, that it would be difficult to come up with effective sanctions on Pyongyang because the North is already isolated and has also been under a series of sanctions for decades. “The North Korean economy is quite constrained, and it’s not as if they are engaged in a significant number of financial transactions in the international system,” he said. “If there were, they would be more vulnerable to the kinds of sanctions that actually did put a lot of pressure on Iran, for example.” (Yonhap, “U.S. Does Not Rule out Banco Delta Asia-Type Sanctions on N. Korea,” February 8, 2016)


2/9/16:
The leaders of Japan, the United States and South Korea staged a united front against North Korea, calling for a strong new U.N. Security Council resolution over Pyongyang’s rocket launch and nuclear test. Prime Minister Abe Shinzo held separate telephone talks with U.S. President Barack Obama and South Korean President Park Geun-hye in which the leaders affirmed trilateral coordination over Pyongyang, senior Japanese officials said. In a 35-minute conversation with Obama, Abe reportedly told his U.S. counterpart that the launch of a “long-range ballistic missile” poses a direct and serious threat to Japan and the United States. His words were relayed to reporters by Deputy Chief Cabinet Secretary Sego Hiroshige. Abe told Obama that Japan plans to tighten its own penalties against North Korea as a way of resolving not only the nuclear and missile issues but also Pyongyang’s abductions of Japanese nationals in the 1970s and 1980s. The international community must make “every effort to put the brakes on Pyongyang’s dangerous, provocative acts,” Seko quoted Abe as saying. Abe said he wants to speed up work on a “swift adoption of a strong resolution.” He called for greater trilateral cooperation with Washington and Seoul. On February 7, the U.N. Security Council held an emergency meeting in which it condemned North Korea’s actions. It has yet to produce a resolution following the underground nuclear test in January, which Pyongyang said was of a hydrogen bomb. Obama told Abe that the Security Council must adopt a resolution without delay, according to Seko. He said the United States remains committed to the defense of Japan and South Korea in the face of North Korea’s provocation and called Washington’s security commitment unshakable. Obama vowed to use every defense capability, including possibly deploying the U.S. Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) in South Korea. THAAD is a land-based network of missile interceptor batteries. Its rockets are designed to intercept ballistic missiles at points in their arc when they may be at extremely high altitudes. In a 15-minute conversation with Park, Abe said Japan would support the deployment of THAAD in South Korea. He said he wants to advance security cooperation with Seoul, according to Deputy Chief Cabinet Secretary Hagiuda Koichi. Hagiuda quoted Park as agreeing with Abe on the need to aim for a strong Security Council resolution as soon as possible. She also vowed to step up cooperation bilaterally — and trilaterally with Washington — over North Korea’s nuclear and missile programs. (Kyodo, JIJI, “Tokyo, Washington, Seoul Affirm Cooperation over Pyongyang,” Japan Times, February 9, 2016)

The national intelligence director, James R. Clapper, warned that North Korea had expanded its production of weapons-grade nuclear fuel, making clear that the Obama administration now regarded the reclusive government in Pyongyang, rather than Iran, as the world’s most worrisome nuclear threat. Clapper’s warning, delivered in his annual worldwide threat assessment to the Senate Armed Services Committee, came a day after President Obama called the leaders of Japan and South Korea to reassure them after a satellite launch by North Korea deepened fears that the North could strike the two countries with nuclear-tipped ballistic missiles. “Pyongyang continues to produce fissile material and develop a submarine-launched ballistic missile,” Clapper said. “It is also committed to developing a long-range nuclear-armed missile that’s capable of posing a direct threat to the United States, although the system has not been flight tested.” In his testimony, Clapper put North Korea at the top of his list of nuclear- and proliferation-related threats. American intelligence agencies say that North Korea has expanded its uranium-enrichment facility at its main nuclear complex in Yongbyon and restarted a plutonium production reactor. North Korea “could begin to recover plutonium from the reactor’s spent fuel within a matter of weeks to months,” Clapper said. With North Korea testing a nuclear device and launching a satellite in quick succession, the White House has grown frustrated by its inability to curb the government in Pyongyang. Obama spoke with President Xi Jinping of China a few days before the satellite launch to urge him to use China’s influence over North Korea to prevent it. The White House has been careful not to criticize China for its failure to rein in North Korea. But Clapper emphasized that the Chinese account for 90 percent of North Korea’s trade, buying $1.2 billion worth of coal from their impoverished neighbor every year. “To the extent that anyone has leverage over North Korea,” he said, “it’s China.” White House officials stopped short of ranking North Korea as the world’s No. 1 proliferation threat. But with Iran in compliance with the terms of the nuclear deal, and with North Korea’s leader, Kim Jong-un, embarking on a series of provocative acts, Pyongyang has clearly supplanted Tehran as a focus for the president’s national security staff. “Obviously, we are concerned about the risk of proliferation from North Korea,” the White House press secretary, Josh Earnest, said February 8. “And the proliferation threat from Iran has, of course, been significantly diminished because of the international agreement to prevent them from obtaining a nuclear weapon.” “If you were ranking them on the list and if at one point Iran were ranked above North Korea,” Earnest said, “that’s certainly no longer the case.” (Mark Landler, North Korea Nuclear Effort Seen as a Top Threat to the U.S.,” New York Times, February 10, 2016, p. A-10)

U.S. experts of international politics seem to have given up all hope for changing Pyongyang’s policy, according to media reports. Prevalent views among these gurus of regional politics are that Washington should put ultrahigh pressure on the North that exceed the sanctions it put on Iran before the Islamic country reached an agreement with the United States to abandon its nuclear programs, the reports said. They call on the Barack Obama administration to discontinue its “strategic patience” policy and turn toward far bolder and more destructive steps with some even suggesting a shift such that regime change in North Korea might be inevitable. This indicates how seriously the U.S. experts regard the North’s “lethal combination” of nuclear warheads and long-delivery vehicles, they said. “The recent nuclear test and missile launch have put an end to the possibility of improving the relationship between the U.S. and North Korea,” Revere Evans, former deputy assistant secretary of state for East Asia, was quoted as saying by Yonhap. “There is no room for passive approaches like ‘strategic patience’ any longer in the face of escalating threats from North Korea’s nuclear weapons and missiles.” Evans, also a former U.S. deputy mission chief in Seoul, said he could not rule out the possibility that Washington would turn toward changing the North Korean regime given Pyongyang’s ability to increase its nuclear and missile capacity. “Some experts here think the only way to terminate the North’s nuclear programs is put an end to its regime,” he said. This is a dangerous approach but the North Korean provocations and its pursuit of nuclear power have shut off room for all alternatives, said Evans who had emphasized the two-track approach of dialogue and pressure. “Some U.S. military officials think North Korea is capable of attacking the mainland U.S. with miniaturized nuclear weapons,” he said. “The U.S. and its allies ought to take new, strong and unprecedented sanctions, and the focus of these measures is to put the stability and survival of the North Korean regime in danger.” Evans said the allies should not only deploy the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) system but strengthen the joint military drills of the U.S., Japan and Korea, and put economic, financial and political sanctions on the North. “They should block oil supplies to the North, interrupt its access to the international financial system and adopt a ‘secondary boycott’ of banks, businesses and individuals that deal with North Korea,” Evans said. Robert Manning, senior fellow at the Atlantic Council, agreed, saying, “The U.S., Korea and Japan will need to take strong measures in ways to drastically increase costs for the North’s nuclear and missile development.” He said the U.S. should strip Kim Jong-un of his “credit cards,” as Washington did with Iran, and called for South Korea to stop all activities that could help the North earn hard currency, such as the operation of the inter-Korean factory park at Kaesong. Alan Romberg, a researcher at the Stimson Center, said North Korea has already crossed an important line or is on the border line, and the Obama administration has no other choices but to cope with it on a different dimension. “As direct military sanctions accompany too huge a cost, however, the U.S. administration would avoid them,” he was quoted as saying. Other experts also agreed on the need for drastically toughening sanctions on the North and to prepare for its eventual collapse while emphasizing China’s role in the process. Victor Cha, chief Korea analyst at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, who has returned from “track two” contact with the North, expressed concerns about escalating tension on the Korean Peninsula. “Sanctions may be important but we are entering into a dangerous phase,” Cha said. “Regional countries conducting nuclear tests, and then having military exercises against them without any channel of dialogue are highly likely to lead to a misjudgment and likely raise the tension to an unthinkable level.” (Choi Sung-jin, “U.S. Experts Say ‘Strategic Patience Is over,” Korea Times, February 9, 2016)


2/10/16:
South Korea said that it would shut down an industrial complex that it runs jointly with North Korea, its strongest retaliation yet for the North’s recent nuclear test and its launching of a long-range rocket over the weekend. In announcing the decision, Unification Minister Hong Yong-pyo said the industrial complex in the North Korean border town of Kaesong, which went into operation in 2004, had wound up providing funds for the North’s weapons programs. Hong, the South’s point man for negotiations on the North, said South Korea had informed Pyongyang of its decision and asked it to help the 184 South Korean factory managers at the complex to cross the border safely and return home. Although the Kaesong complex was temporarily shut down in 2013, it was the North that initiated the closing, by pulling out its workers to protest joint South Korean-American military drills. The South responded by withdrawing its managers. Today’s action was the first time the South unilaterally closed the complex. And by officially identifying the factory park as a source of cash for the North’s nuclear program, the South seemed to indicate that the shutdown was permanent. “We cannot stop North Korea’s nuclear and missile programs with the existing methods of response,” Hong said in a nationally televised statement. “We need to act strongly together with the international community to ensure that North Korea pay a price, and we need to take special actions to leave the North with no option but to give up its nuclear program and change.” Hong said the Kaesong factory park had been an important source of cash for the North Korean government. He said North Korea had earned more than $560 million in wages for its workers there, including $120 million last year. Businesses and the government from the South have also invested $852 million in factories, roads and other facilities there. “In the end, it appears that the money was used not for the peace the international community wanted but to advance the North’s nuclear weapons and long-range missiles,” he said. Kaesong was the last of those joint projects still functioning and the most important symbol of inter-Korean good will. Streams of cars and trucks going to and from the complex crossed the otherwise tightly sealed border daily, carrying South Korean factory managers into the North and manufactured goods into the South. More than 45,000 North Koreans worked for 123 South Korean-owned factories at Kaesong last year, producing more than $515 million worth of textiles, electronic parts and other labor-intensive goods, according to the South Korean government. But the wages, paid in American dollars, did not go directly to the North Korean workers. Instead, the Pyongyang government took the bulk of the cash, with the workers getting just a small fraction of their wages in the local currency, according to South Korean officials here. Conservative South Koreans and some American policy makers have long feared that proceeds from Kaesong have benefited the North’s nuclear arms program. Hong, the unification minister, said that the South had needed to take drastic action. He said the North’s nuclear ambitions, if left unchecked, could set off a “nuclear domino effect” in the region, with other countries pursuing their own arms programs in response to the North’s. South Koreans who have argued for keeping Kaesong open said that cutting off trade with the North would only weaken Seoul’s economic leverage and push Pyongyang closer to China. South Korea was once a major trading partner of the North, but almost all of the isolated country’s trade now goes through China, which has resisted appeals from Seoul and Washington to use its influence to curb the North’s nuclear ambitions. Cheong Seong-chang, a senior analyst at the Sejong Institute in South Korea, said the shutdown of Kaesong was “the worst possible option” for the South. Economically, he said, it would do the North less harm than Seoul hoped, because the North could earn more cash by sending the same skilled North Korean workers to China. “When you look at the South Korean government’s policies since the North’s nuclear test, you cannot help thinking that it is reacting emotionally,” Cheong said. The Kaesong complex had been closed since February 7 for the Lunar New Year holiday; the South’s announcement means it will not reopen tomorrow as planned. Most of the roughly 500 South Korean managers based at the complex are home for the holiday, but 184 are still in Kaesong, South Korean officials said. (Choe Sang-hun, “South Korea to Shut Joint Factory Park over Nuclear Test and Rocket,” New York Times, February 10, 2016) “The operation of the complex should not be used for North Korea’s development of weapons of mass destruction at a time when the international community is pushing for tougher sanctions against the North,” said a ministry official. A total of 124 South Korean companies are operating in the zone, some 50 kilometers northwest of Seoul, employing more than 54,000 North Korean workers to produce labor-intensive goods, such as clothes and utensils. The official said that it is not the time to talk about when and whether operations at the complex can be resumed. “Whether the park can be reopened will entirely hinge on North Korea,” he said. “The North should first dispel the international community’s concerns about its nuclear and missile developments, and provide a favorable atmosphere for our firms to normally operate factories.” (Yonhap, “S. Korea to Suspend Operation of Kaesong Complex,” February 10, 2016) South Korea’s ruling and opposition parties showed mixed responses to the Seoul government’s decision to suspend the operation of a joint industrial complex in North Korea. The ruling Saenuri Party said the party respects the government’s decision, saying it was “an inevitable measure to end the vicious circle of North Korea’s provocations.” In a press release, the party said, “It is time for us to send a firm message that repeated provocations will only deepen the impoverished regime’s isolation.” Kim Moo-sung, the party’s chairman, said he welcomes the decision, saying that the Seoul government has so far taken passive measures against the North’s provocations. “There is no choice but to sanction North Korea until the country gives up its nukes,” the chairman said during a meeting with senior party members. Meanwhile, the main opposition Minjoo Party of Korea strongly opposed the decision, saying that the move will exacerbate tensions on the Korean Peninsula by completely cutting off inter-Korean exchanges. “There is a high possibility that this measure will eventually lead to the permanent closure of the complex,” Kim Sung-soo, the party’s spokesman, said in a press release. The party said the decision is not the ultimate solution to the current situation, asking the government to reexamine the decision. (Yonhap, “Rival Parties Split over Suspension of Kaesong Complex,” February 10, 2016) Park Geun-hye, the South Korean president, has acted with unusual decisiveness — and acted alone, following her gut instinct, advisers say — to close down the complex in the wake of North Korea’s nuclear and missile tests, and with it the “sunshine policy” era of engagement. “She’s the president. The buck stops with her,” said a senior government official. The Kaesong complex was shut down once before — by North Korea, which withdrew its workers during a period of heightened tensions in 2013. But experts think that this time, the closure is permanent. “Realistically, it’s closed for good,” said Lee Jong-seok, who was South Korea’s minister of unification during the “sunshine policy” years and remains a strong proponent of engagement. “Now that the South Korean government has alleged that the money is going into North Korea’s nuclear program, there’s no way they can reopen this.” Park had tried to find a middle ground between the sunshine policy and the hardline tendencies of her predecessor, pursuing what she called a “trustpolitik” approach to North Korea — a combination of carrots and sticks. But the nuclear test and missile launch forced her to call an end to this approach. “She’s come to realize that trustpolitik doesn’t work,” said Chun Yung-woo, national security adviser to Park’s predecessor and an advocate of a much tougher approach to the North. “She’s now decided to speak the language that North Korea understands — the language of sanctions and regime change.” (Anna Fifield, “After a Nuclear Park Has Epiphanies on North Korea, China,” Washington Post, February 21, 2016)

Japan announced it will impose unilateral sanctions on North Korea, including a ban on entry by North Korean ships. Earlier in the day, the government held a meeting of the National Security Council to make final arrangements on unilateral sanctions on North Korea, which fired a ballistic missile on Sunday in defiance of international warnings. The entry into Japanese ports by North Korean ships, including those on humanitarian purposes, will be banned, which also applies to ships of third countries that made a port call at North Korea. The government will also revive a reentry ban, in principle, on senior officials of the pro-Pyongyang General Association of Korean Residents in Japan (Chongryon) and expand the scope of the ban to other officials. The ban on reentry to Japan will also include such non-Japanese living in Japan as engineers related to nuclear and missile technologies who have traveled to North Korea. The entry into Japan by North Korean nationals will also be banned, in principle. According to the government, the scope of organizations and individuals subject to asset freezes will also be expanded. “The government decided on resolute sanctions,” Prime Minister Abe Shinzo told reporters this evening. “We will closely cooperate with the international community to settle abduction, nuclear and missile issues.” Asked about the effectiveness of the sanctions, Chief Cabinet Secretary SugaYoshihide said at a press conference, “We believe our country’s intention will fully come across to [North Korea] and they [the sanctions] will be effective.” (Sakurai Yosuke, “Govt. Slaps Unilateral Sanctions on N. Korea,” Yomiuri Shimbun, February 10, 2016) Japan in 2014 eased some earlier sanctions on North Korea in exchange for its pledge to reinvestigate the fate of the Japanese abductees. Today’s measures go slightly beyond the restoration of the previously eased measures. The ban on port entry extends to any foreign ships coming to Japan after visiting North Korea. The travel ban will also be broadened to include any foreigners with nuclear and missile expertise who visit North Korea. All money transfers, except for those below 100,000 yen ($880) for humanitarian purposes, will be banned. Takesada Hideshi, a North Korea expert at Takushoku University in Tokyo, said Japan has already severed trade and most other exchanges with North Korea, and there is not much left to do. He said there is more room for tougher sanctions elsewhere, including South Korea, where North Korea still earns foreign currencies. “Japan has a dilemma,” he said. “North Korea’s missile development poses a serious threat to Japan’s national security, but Japan has the abduction issue and it doesn’t want to lose its communication with the North.” (Associated Press, “Japan Announces New Sanctions on North Korea,” Asahi Shimbun, February 10, 2016) Abe explained the strengthening of Japan’s unilateral sanctions against North Korea in a telephone conference with U.S. President Barack Obama on Tuesday, reportedly saying, “We’ll take a risk with the abduction issue, but we’ll do this [enforce sanctions], Barack.” (Yonekawa Takeshi, “Sanctions Adopted in Unison,” Yomiuri Shimbun, February 11, 2016)

Crossing a red line. Unacceptable. Won’t be tolerated. Serious consequences. Those are just a handful of the scolding phrases uttered over the past two decades at every bend on North Korea’s road to becoming a nuclear state, from pulling out of the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and expelling inspectors to its more recent advances in weapons and missile technology. Over the past decade in particular, since North Korea tested its first nuclear device in 2006, the international community has turned repeatedly to one means of showing Pyongyang just how angry it is: sanctions. There have been sanctions designed to stop North Korea from acquiring weapons technology and conventional arms, sanctions to block its ability to move money around the world and sanctions to prevent the ruling Kim family and its cronies from getting personal watercraft and fancy watches. The United Nations was already considering a new round of measures to punish Pyongyang for its fourth nuclear test, conducted last month, when leader Kim Jong Un ordered the launch Sunday of a long-range rocket thought to be part of his country’s ballistic missile program. Denunciations of North Korea’s behavior and pleas for China — a veto-wielding member of the U.N. Security Council — to get tough on the regime followed immediately, prompting a familiar sense of deja vu. “The U.S. and North Korea are mired in a ‘tit for tat’ situation where there is a provocation by North Korea followed by a U.S. or U.N. response, followed by a North Korean response,” said Keith Luse, executive director of the National Committee on North Korea and a former top congressional aide. “The situation resembles layers of an onion.” Although sanctions have no doubt made it harder for Pyongyang to do business, they clearly have not forced the regime to change its behavior or prevented significant advances in the North’s nuclear weapons program. As Iran prepares to welcome international oil companies after its historic nuclear deal with the United States, Cuba welcomes American tourists and Burma comes to grips with democracy, one question continues to vex U.S. officials: How do you solve a problem like North Korea? The Obama administration has exercised “strategic patience,” the idea — championed by Hillary Clinton while she was secretary of state — that the United States can wait for North Korea to agree to denuclearization talks. Republican presidential hopefuls, no doubt mindful that Clinton could end up as the Democratic nominee, have denounced that policy and laid out alternative plans. At the most recent GOP debate, which began just half an hour after North Korea launched Sunday’s rocket, former Florida governor Jeb Bush said he was not against a “preemptive strike” on North Korea, Florida Sen. Marco Rubio said North Korea should be put back on the list of state sponsors of terrorism, and businessman Donald Trump said, “Let China solve that problem.” Analysts across the spectrum agree that the current policy appears not to have worked. “There’s a decent consensus out there that we have no strategy. It’s very hard to find anyone to defend strategic patience,” said John Delury, an international relations professor at Yonsei University in Seoul. “We can’t just go on like this.” But there is no appetite in Washington for engagement, and North Korea has made clear that it has no interest in talks about denuclearization. Its message has been: We’re a nuclear state now. Deal with us as such. Military action, meanwhile, is problematic. While North Korea’s outdated military technology is no match for the United States’, it has enough artillery trained on Seoul to inflict huge damage on the South Korean capital before falling. So what’s left? Sanctions. And in the absence of tough new punishments from the United Nations, where China and Russia typically water down multilateral action, the burden of strengthening existing sanctions falls on the United States. “There’s lots more we can do on the punitive track,” said Bruce Klingner, a former North Korea analyst at the CIA, now at the Heritage Foundation. “We can continue to try to enforce our own laws and to constrain North Korea.” This is a rare subject of bipartisan agreement on Capitol Hill. The House last month approved a sweeping new sanctions bill by a vote of 418 to 2, and the Senate is set to vote on a similar bill Thursday. There are still plenty of tools left in the sanctions box, Klingner said, noting that the United States has targeted twice as many Zimbabwean entities as North Korean ones and has not designated North Korea as a primary money-laundering concern, as it did with Iran and Burma. Even Christopher Hill, the former U.S. diplomat who brokered a 2005 agreement under which North Korea agreed to abandon its nuclear program, advises against trying to engage the regime. “We have to take the North Koreans at their word, and they have repeatedly said that they’re not interested in negotiation,” Hill said. “They want to talk to us, but they want to talk to us as a nuclear power.” Instead, it all comes back to China, he said. “I would like to see much more focus on a deep dive with the Chinese to see what can be done.” Indeed, no matter how strong any sanctions may be, they count for almost nothing if China is not on board. As North Korea’s main, if reluctant, patron, China could cut off its neighbor’s access to goods, oil and financing. But even as it has supported U.N. sanctions, Beijing has still allowed enough trade and aid to get through to keep North Korea afloat. “If North Korea realizes that the road is blocked, then they will have no choice but to turn around,” said Scott Snyder, a Korea specialist at the Council on Foreign Relations. “But can we block the road? The less China cooperates, the more difficult that challenge is for us.” Chinese officials have not sent positive signals on the expansion of sanctions, instead urging all sides to “remain calm, act cautiously, avoid taking moves that could further increase tensions on the peninsula.” China has long shown it prefers a contained North Korea to a collapsed North Korea that could bring thousands of the U.S. troops stationed in South Korea right up to its border. “They suggest that the imperative for stability has trumped denuclearization,” Snyder said. But in trying to figure out how to deal with North Korea, Snyder said, the United States has taken the wrong approach. Washington has been sending officials to Beijing to exhort it to crack down on North Korea, he noted, while also trying to make up for China’s lack of action with unilateral punitive measures. “We should be showing up in Beijing,” Snyder said, “and saying, ‘Hey, that’s a heck of a problem you’ve got on your hands with North Korea.’” (Anna Fifield, “When It Comes to Punishing North Korea, It’s Groundhog Day,” Washington Post, February 11, 2016)

The top military officers from the United States, South Korea and Japan said they agreed at a meeting to step up information-sharing and coordination of security efforts in light of increasing North Korean nuclear and missile threats. The three chiefs of defense issued a joint statement calling North Korea’s fourth nuclear test and “long-range missile launch” direct violations of U.N. resolutions and “serious provocations against the international community.” They said they agreed to firmly respond to Pyongyang’s actions through “trilateral information sharing” and “to coordinate further on mutual security issues to enhance peace and stability in the region.” Adm. Kawano Katsutoshi, head of Japan’s Self-Defense Forces, met with U.S. Marine Corps Gen. Joseph Dunford, chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, while Army Gen. Lee Sun-Jin, chairman of the South Korean Joint Chiefs of Staff, joined them by video teleconference. It was the second meeting among the defense chiefs of the three countries since July 2014, said U.S. Navy Capt. Greg Hicks, Dunford’s spokesman. (Reuters, “U.S., South Korea, Japan Boost Data-Sharing in Response to North Korean Threat,” Japan Times, February 11, 2016)

Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump recently unveiled his plan to stop the North’s experiments with nuclear weapons and to topple the Kim Jong-un regime. The plan, which experts here often describe as “half-baked,” is centered on U.S. pressure on China, the reclusive state’s most important ally. “I would get China to make that guy [Kim Jong-un] disappear in one form or another very quickly,” Trump said in an interview with CBS. Co-host Norah O’Donnell asked Trump what he meant and if he was calling for North Korea’s leader to be assassinated. “Well, you know, I’ve heard of worse things, frankly,” Trump said. “I mean, this guy is a bad dude. And don’t underestimate him.” Asked why the U.S. would not address the North Korean issue itself, Trump said China needed to do so because it already had control over the North. Trump said he would use economic sanctions to force China to act. “China has control ― absolute control ― of North Korea,” Trump said. “They don’t say it, but they do, and they should make that problem disappear.” (Park Si-soo, “Can Trump Defuse North Korea’s Nuclear Program?” Korea Times, March 6, 2016)


2/11/16:
North Korea ordered a military takeover of a factory park that had been the last major symbol of cooperation with South Korea, calling Seoul’s earlier suspension of operations at the jointly run facility as punishment for the North’s recent rocket launch a “dangerous declaration of war.” North Korea said it was responding to Seoul’s shutdown order by immediately deporting the hundreds of South Koreans who work at the complex just across the world’s most heavily armed border in the city of Kaesong, pulling out the tens of thousands of North Korean employees and freezing all South Korean assets. The North also said it was shutting down two crucial cross-border communication hotlines. Hours after the North’s expulsion deadline, South Korea’s Unification Ministry, which is responsible for ties with the North, said all of the 280 South Korean workers who had been at the facility had finally crossed into South Korea. South Korea said it would ban reporters from the border crossing tomorrow. “I was told not to bring anything but personal goods, so I’ve got nothing but my clothes to take back,” a manager at a South Korean apparel company at the complex, who declined to give his name, told The Associated Press by phone before he crossed to the South. Chang Beom Kang, who has been running an apparel company in Kaesong since 2009, said from South Korea that his company has about 920 North Korean workers — who didn’t show up today — and seven South Korean managers at Kaesong. He said one of his workers, who entered Kaesong earlier today, was about to cross the border to return to South Korea with thousands of women’s clothes produced at the factory. But at the last minute the employee had to drive back to the factory to unload the clothes because of North Korea’s announcement that it would freeze all South Korean assets there. “I’m devastated now,” Kang said by phone, saying he’s worried about losing credibility with clients because of the crisis. Yonhap, citing an unidentified military official, reported that South Korea bolstered its military readiness and strength along the western portion of the border in the event of a North Korean provocation. The report didn’t elaborate on what that meant. Seoul’s Defense Ministry would only say that its military has been on high alert since the North’s nuclear test last month. North Korea’s Committee for the Peaceful Reunification of Korea said in a statement that the South’s shutdown of Kaesong was a “dangerous declaration of war” and a “declaration of an end to the last lifeline of the North-South relations.” Such over-the-top rhetoric is typical of the North’s propaganda, but the country appeared to be backing up its language with its strong response. The statement also issued crude insults against South Korean President Park Geun-hye, saying she masterminded the shutdown and calling her a “confrontational wicked woman” who lives upon “the groin of her American boss.” Such sexist language is also typical of North Korean propaganda. Last year, 124 South Korean companies hired 54,000 North Korean workers to produce socks, wristwatches and other goods worth about $500 million. South Korean businesses with factories at the park reacted with a mixture of disappointment and anger. In a statement, the association of South Korean companies at Kaesong denounced Seoul’s decision as “entirely incomprehensible and unjust.” (Ahn Young-Joon, “N. Korea Orders Military Takeover of Inter-Korean Factories,” Associated Press, February 11, 2016) In April 2013, the North shut down the complex for about four months, citing what it called heightened tensions sparked by a military drill between Seoul and Washington. The two Koreas agreed not to shut it down again “under any circumstances” when they decided to reopen it. (Yonhap, “N. Korea Expels S. Koreans from Kaesong Complex, Freezes Assets,” February 11, 2016)

South Korea has cut off power and water supplies to a factory park in North Korea, officials said a day after the North deported all South Korean workers there and ordered a military takeover of the complex that had been the last major symbol of cooperation between the rivals. Last night, the 280 South Korean workers who had been at the park crossed the border into South Korea, several hours after a deadline set by the North passed. Their departure quashed concerns that some might be held hostage, and lowered the chances that the standoff might lead to violence or miscalculations. But they weren’t allowed to bring back any finished products and equipment at their factories because the North announced it will freeze all South Korean assets there. The North also said it was closing an inter-Korean highway linking to Kaesong and shutting down two cross-border communication hotlines. “I was told not to bring anything but personal goods, so I’ve got nothing but my clothes to take back,” a manager at a South Korean apparel company at the complex, who declined to give his name, told The Associated Press by phone before he crossed to the South. Chang Beom Kang, who has been running an apparel company in Kaesong since 2009, said from South Korea that his company has about 920 North Korean workers — who didn’t show up Thursday — and seven South Korean managers at Kaesong. He said one of his workers, who entered Kaesong earlier Thursday, was about to cross the border to return to South Korea with thousands of women’s clothes produced at the factory. But at the last minute the employee had to drive back to the factory to unload the clothes because of North Korea’s announcement that it would freeze all South Korean assets there. “I’m devastated now,” Kang said by phone, saying he’s worried about losing credibility with clients because of the crisis. (Associated Press, “Seoul Cuts off Electricity to Factory Park in North Korea,” February 11, 2016)

CPRK statement “condemning the U.S. and the south Korean puppet group for declaring the total suspension of the operation in the Kaesong Industrial Zone (KIZ) [yesterday], not content with kicking up the sanctions racket, while branding the DPRK’s H-bomb test and launch of a satellite for peaceful purposes as what they called violation of the “UN resolutions.” The statement said that the KIZ has been put in the state of total closure under the “regime” of Park Geun Hye, a traitor for all ages, though it operated for the common prosperity for more than a decade amid the concern and expectation of all compatriots since the adoption of the June 15 Joint Declaration. The recent provocative measure is a declaration of an end to the last lifeline of the north-south relations, total denial of the June 15 North-South Joint Declaration and a dangerous declaration of a war driving the situation in the Korean Peninsula to the brink of a war. … Since the outset of its office, the Park’s group has desperately worked to close the KIZ, describing it as a “financial source” for the north. This time it finally took the action of totally suspending its operation after unreasonably raising matters having nothing to do with the north-south relations. Such act is a product of Park Geun Hye’s inveterate sycophancy and abnormal confrontational hysteria kicked off by her at the prodding of the U.S. As the south Korean people are condemning the above-said action with indignation, the total suspension of the operation in the KIZ is little short of an act of dropping an axe on one’s own foot. Hit hard by this action are entrepreneurs and people of south Korea and it is the Park Geun Hye group of traitors who should pay a dear price for it. Unpardonable is the puppet group’s act of totally suspending the operation in the KIZ, finding fault with the DPRK’s H-bomb test and launch of a satellite, a just measure for self-defense and an exercise of its legitimate right. The CPRK solemnly clarifies internally and externally the following crucial measures in view of the prevailing situation: Firstly, the DPRK will totally block the Military Demarcation Line near the KIZ from 10 am, Feb. 11, 2016, cut off the roads along the west coast in the areas under the control of the north and the south and close the KIZ and declare it as the area under the military control. Secondly, it will expel all persons of the south side in the KIZ till 5 pm, Feb. 11, 2016. Thirdly, it will completely freeze all assets including equipment, materials and products of the south Korean enterprises and relevant organs in the KIZ. The persons to be expelled are not allowed to take things out of the zone, except for their personal belongings, and the frozen equipment, materials and products will be put under the control of Kaesong City People’s Committee.

Fourthly, the military communication and Panmunjom hotline will be cut off the moment the personnel of the south side are expelled. Fifthly, all workers of the DPRK will leave the KIZ on Feb. 11, 2016. The south Korean puppet group will experience what disastrous and painful consequences will be entailed by its action.” (KCNA, “CPRK Warns S. Korean Authorities of Most Serious Consequences of Total Suspension of Operation in KIZ,” February 11, 2016)

North Korea has reconfigured Japanese-made civilian radar systems for use by naval ships as showcased at an anti-ship missile test reported last year, a document compiled by experts investigating U.N. sanctions against the country says. The 73-page document, seen by Kyodo News ahead of its submission to the Security Council next month, also cites a ship linked to a U.N.-blacklisted North Korean shipping company berthed near a city in western Japan for a few days last March.

With the revelation that commercial Japanese devices have been funneled to North Korean military forces, the Japanese government may feel compelled to come up with a new response to ensure the effectiveness of sanctions, particularly after its decision to tighten measures to punish Pyongyang for its recent activities. Concerning the Japanese radars, the report says, “The Democratic People’s Republic of Korea acquired and adapted commercial antennas for their naval vessels, three of which were seen during the test-firing of an anti-ship missile publicized on Feb. 7, 2015.” Although the unnamed Japanese manufacturer said it had “no records of sale” to the country after June 12, 2009, the panel notes that the systems displayed aboard the missile boats were “off-the-shelf products.” They are widely used around the world in the fishing and leisure craft markets, it adds. As the items cannot be traced without a serial number, the panel cautions countries to remain on guard when exporting any maritime electronics, including radars, sonar systems and compasses. This was not the first case of Japanese commercial products being converted for illicit purposes in North Korea. The International Atomic Energy Agency uncovered a Japanese-made vacuum pump being used at a North Korean nuclear facility in a 2007 inspection. A Tokyo-based trading agent escaped charges for conducting the unauthorized export. The Japanese police reported that an executive admitted to exporting the pump to Taiwan knowing it would eventually be shipped to North Korea. The company was warned by the Japanese government the following year not to engage in similar practices. Also mentioned in the report was an incident involving the Hui Chon, a vessel associated with Ocean Maritime Management Co., which anchored off the coast of Sakaiminato city in Tottori Prefecture from March 9-13 last year. OMM, based in Pyongyang, was added to the U.N. sanctions list in 2014 by the Security Council after one of its cargo ships was seized in Panama. The Chong Chon Gang was laden with concealed arms buried under bags of sugar when it was intercepted in 2013 while traveling from Cuba to North Korea. Japan told the panel the Hui Chon “had been permitted to take shelter from inclement weather,” but it remained outside the harbor the entire time. Tokyo claimed it had no legal grounds to detain the ship, as it had the right to “innocent passage” in territorial waters. It remains unknown why the ship was traveling near Japanese waters. The panel also cites a report from a member state in December 2015 about a shipment of cargo from Dalian to Lattakia, Syria, containing commercially available items that could be used for military purposes. The shipment was controlled by entities tied to Korea Mining Development Trading Corp., which handles weapons exports for North Korea. The cargo, seized in May 2014, included machinery and measuring devices. “Certain items may be used in the production of arms or a principal component of Scud missile liquid propellant,” says the panel, which conducted an on-site inspection. The items were “mostly sourced from the Mainland (China), Hong Kong and Taiwan with some coming from Denmark, Japan and the United States.” None of the suppliers knew they would be re-exported to Syria, the panel says. The Japanese supplier told the panel it asked one of the Chinese procurement companies about the “end user,” but did not get a response. Japanese technology was also found in North Korean drones, which was also highlighted by the panel in the report. It says the country has around 300 drones and its intelligence service, the Reconnaissance General Bureau, is involved in the procurement and operation of drones for reconnaissance. The drone that crashed into Baengnyeong island in March 2014, for instance, contained components that were from Japan, including a camera that had been sold to a Chinese distributor. Of the two other drones that crashed into Paju and Samcheok in the spring of 2014, there were three Japanese components — an engine and muffler, a gyro board and a motor. The report points out that the drones’ components, also from the United States, China and Switzerland, are “widely available” and not on a list of prohibited items. The panel is recommending expanding the scope of prohibited items to include unmanned aerial vehicles with reconnaissance and other capabilities as well as navigation and guidance systems for UAVs. Drones are subject to the current ban but only if they have a range of more than 300 kilometers and can carry an object of over 500 kilograms. (Kyodo, “Japan Radar Components Used by North Korean Navy: U.N. Report,” Japan Times, February 12, 2016)

The prospect of a friendly new era between China and South Korea seemed to collapse this week. After North Korea, China’s treaty ally, launched a rocket, apparently to test ballistic missile technology, South Korea embraced what China had been trying to prevent: an American antimissile defense system that will be deployed on China’s doorstep. China now appears angrier at the South Koreans than at Kim, who ignored its advice against the rocket launch. Park’s government said it was entering talks with the Obama administration regarding the deployment of THAAD, and the Pentagon said the installation, paid for by the United States, would take place as quickly as possible. “President Park was very disappointed and upset with Xi’s inaction and silence against North Korea when she desperately needed Xi’s help,” said Kim Heung-kyu, director of the China Policy Institute at Ajou University in Suwon, South Korea. Xi was then embarrassed domestically by Park’s rush to accept the American defense system, Kim said. “Xi Jinping’s efforts to enlist President Park as a friend have not gone as well as he hoped,” he said, “and she was certainly disappointed in his efforts to control Kim Jong-un.” After the rocket launch on Sunday, China expressed “regrets” and argued vigorously at the United Nations against sweeping new sanctions. In contrast, China said it was “deeply concerned” about South Korea’s decision to allow the deployment of the missile defense system. It warned that “every country must not undermine the security interest of other countries while pursuing its own security interests,” clearly implying that the missile system was aimed at solidifying Washington’s network of alliances in Northeast Asia rather than offering protection against North Korea. To demonstrate its annoyance, the Chinese Foreign Ministry summoned the South Korean ambassador in Beijing, Kim Jang-soo, to protest the talks between Seoul and Washington on the missile defense system. (In a nod to even-handedness, the Chinese also called in the North Korean ambassador, Ji Jae-ryong, over the rocket launch.) China’s anger at the imminence of an American missile system so close to its borders stems from two propositions, said Chu Shulong, a professor of international relations at Tsinghua University in Beijing. First, many in the Chinese government do not believe that North Korea would use its nuclear weapons, Chu said. Second, the belief that deploying the THAAD system is aimed principally at solidifying America’s position in Northeast Asia is widespread in Beijing, where officials fear the ultimate goal is to contain China. “North Korea is a bad regime, yes, everyone agrees on that,” Chu said. “Is North Korea going to use its weapons? Perhaps not. They are not seen as an immediate threat.” Of more concern to the Chinese than the North’s nuclear weapons, Chu said, is the notion that THAAD would knit South Korea and Japan, allies that have their own deep squabbles, more tightly under a United States umbrella. “THAAD will bring South Korea and Japan closer to the U.S. defense system, making much more of a military bloc that is targeting China and Russia,” he said. Chinese experts contend that THAAD has a radar range capable of reaching into China and threatening its own missile deterrence. “China is worried about THAAD’s radar range — more than 2,000 kilometers — so long it can penetrate into China,” said Shen Dingli, a professor of international relations at Fudan University in Shanghai who is also a physicist. For China, the “introduction of THAAD is a setback because it links South Korea to a U.S. regional strategy,” said Scott A. Snyder, senior fellow for Korea studies at the Council on Foreign Relations. “It remains to be seen whether China will respond to this setback by further limiting cooperation with the United States on North Korea or whether China is able to impose costs on South Korea for its decision.” (Jane Perlez, “North’s Rocket Launch Frays South Korea’s Ties with China,” New York Times, February 11, 2016, p. A-10)


2/12/16:
KCNA: In recent days, foreign experts on international affairs and major media are presenting various views on the issue of ensuring peace and security in the Korean Peninsula. They are unanimous in asserting that in order to find a solution to the nuclear issue in the Korean Peninsula it is necessary for the U.S. to admit the fact that it was spawned by its persistent military threat and nuclear blackmail against the DPRK and put an end to the state of truce in the peninsula through the conclusion of a peace treaty with the latter. Kalashnikov, first vice-chairman of the International Affairs Committee of the State Duma of Russia, at the interview with TV Tsentr of his country on Jan. 22 said that the U.S., south Korea and Japan are chiefly to blame for compelling the DPRK to have access to nuclear weapons as they have posed military threats to it since the 1950s. Posted on a U.S. website mainly dealing with foreign policy matters was an article which held that the U.S. persistent policy of confrontation brought about the consequences of compelling the DPRK to bolster up its nuclear force and now is the time to conclude a peace treaty which can make everybody feel safe. This drew world attention. On January 18 an Asian medium viewed the DPRK’s proposal for concluding a peace treaty as a reasonable and positive one, adding that everything can be fundamentally settled only when the Armistice Agreement is replaced by a peace treaty and confidence is built between the DPRK and the U.S. This goes to prove that whoever has reasonable thinking about the issue of ensuring peace and security in the peninsula agrees with the necessity and urgency to put an end to the hostile relations between the DPRK and the U.S. It is a top priority task for preserving peace and security in the peninsula and the rest of the world to put an end to such relations. The DPRK and the U.S. are in the de facto relations of belligerency due to the latter’s vicious hostile policy toward the former and its moves to isolate and stifle the DPRK in order to bring down its social system. They are not simply at war technically, pursuant to the Armistice Agreement concluded in 1953. U.S. President Obama is openly trumpeting about “collapse” of the DPRK, regarding it as an enemy. Various strategies and operational scenarios for stifling it are being steadily modified and supplemented by the U.S. and its followers and its plans for political, economic and military blackmail are getting undisguised with each passing day. Consequently, the peninsula has turned into the hottest spot in the world and a hotbed of a nuclear war where an evil cycle of confrontation and tension is ceaseless and even a trifling accidental case may spark off a thermonuclear war all of a sudden. It is as clear as a pikestaff that in case a nuclear war breaks out in the Korean Peninsula, the center of Northeast Asia beset with a lot of social, historic, political and military issues, it will spill over into a regional and global nuclear war. The fundamental and best way for preventing such grave situation is for the U.S. to put a definite end to its hostile policy toward the DPRK and build a lasting peace-keeping mechanism in the peninsula. However, the U.S. is persistently crying out for the DPRK’s dismantlement of its nuclear weapons, paying no heed to such unanimous demand of the international community. The U.S. is raising the DPRK’s dismantlement of its nuclear weapons as a precondition for building the above-said mechanism. This is just like a guilty party filing the suit first. Its scenario is to keep instability in the peninsula and threaten the DPRK by force of arms and make a military strike at it anytime and occupy it. But it is nothing but a daydream. The U.S. desperate pursuance of its anachronistic policy for stifling the DPRK would only increase the danger of a nuclear war in the peninsula and touch off the world’s bitterer criticism of it and adversely affect its security. The U.S. would be well advised to respond to resolving this urgent matter as desired by the world, bearing in mind that putting an end to the hostile relations between the DPRK and the U.S. is directly linked with the issue of ensuring not only peace and security on the peninsula but also security in its mainland.” (KCNA, “KCNA Calls for End to Hostile Relations between DPRK and U.S.,” February 12, 2016)

DPRK “Special Investigation Committee” statement: “The Japanese government on [February 12] decided to make the first move to take sanctions measures against the DPRK independent of the UN sanctions under the pretext of the H-bomb test and satellite launch of the DPRK. The measures would reportedly include the expansion of objects to be subject to the freeze of fund and to the restrictions as for the personnel visits and remittance as well as re-effectuation of those sanctions which Japan partially lifted under the May, 2014 DPRK-Japan inter-governmental Stockholm agreement. The “Special Investigation Committee” of the DPRK issued a statement Friday denouncing the Japanese government for scrapping even the agreement reached at the inter-governmental talks without hesitation, being bereft of elementary fidelity. The Japanese reactionaries, who are accustomed to the bad habit of abusing the sincerity of the dialogue partner to use it as a source of provocation, reneged on all their commitments made in the inter-governmental agreement by citing an issue which has nothing to do with its implementation, and made a frontal challenge to the DPRK. …We have already told Japan enough what consequences it may face for its reckless acts. But the Abe regime reapplied the sanctions which had been lifted and even took additional sanctions. This is little short of the declaration of its own scrapping of the Stockholm agreement. We clarify as follows our just stand now that Japan revealed its sinister intention to push the DPRK-Japan relations into a stalemate and to keep stand-off with the DPRK to the last: Firstly, the comprehensive investigation into all the Japanese that had been under way under the inter-governmental Stockholm agreement will be totally stopped and the “Special Investigation Committee” be dissolved from February 12, 2016. Secondly, Japan’s provocative acts of hostility toward the DPRK will ensue stronger countermeasures. The Abe regime has to hold full responsibilities for causing such a grave consequence as today’s.” (KCNA, “Japan Assailed for Scrapping DPRK-Japan Inter-Governmental Agreement,” February 12, 2016)

North Korea said it has disbanded a special committee that was set up in 2014 to look into the whereabouts of missing Japanese nationals suspected of being abducted, in response to Tokyo’s decision earlier this week to impose new sanctions on Pyongyang. In Tokyo, a senior official of Abe’s government said North Korea’s announcement was “within expectations” and that Japan will have to take a wait-and-see stance as it watches developments in Pyongyang. Another official said that despite the stalemate, Japan will tackle the abduction issue “tenaciously,” pointing out Tokyo’s principle of “action for action” in dealing with Pyongyang. (Kyodo, “N. Korea Disbands Special Probe Team on Japanese Abduction Issue,” February 12, 2016)

Ruediger Frank: “If we assume that all wages were transferred to the government, the income North Korea was able to generate from operating Kaesong was about US$ 100 million annually, less than one percent of its annual trade volume. One could argue over the significance of that amount; it is certainly no small change for a country that has very limited options of acquiring hard currency. At the same time, it is also not an amount that would make or break the North Korean economy. Obviously, South Korea has for many years shared that assessment, otherwise it would have closed the zone much earlier. So what benefits has South Korea gained from Kaesong? To begin with, there were economic benefits from exploiting cheap North Korean labor. Over 50,000 Korean-speaking women, well educated, disciplined and tightly controlled by Pyongyang helped a number of South Korean sunset industries (textiles, shoes, watches, etc.) survive. The wage level in South Korea is way too high for producers with high inputs of labor who need to be price competitive. Their alternatives would have been to go to China or Southeast Asia, or to exit the market altogether. Semi-finished products from South Korea were brought to Kaesong, value was added, and they were sent back to South Korea for further processing or to be sold to the final user. Kaesong thus secured South Korean jobs and profits. But, more importantly, Kaesong was a huge propaganda machine. I have visited the zone a couple of times since 2004 and compared it to the working environment I knew from regular North Korean factories. In Kaesong, everything was clean, bright and modern—a perfect showcase. The employers also provided meals and snacks to their North Korean workers who couldn’t help but believe that what they learned from illegally watching South Korean soap operas was true: that the South was a land of plenty. In a subtle way, even South Korean language was smuggled in: the restrooms were marked “Hwajangsil” (powder room), rather than “wisaengsil” (hygienic room) as anywhere else in North Korea. Now, those once lucky girls have lost their jobs. Does anybody seriously believe they will blame Kim Jong Un for this? It clearly wasn’t he who closed the factories. To hope that he will be held responsible by the “Kaesong 50,000” is a long shot. Furthermore, it is simply impossible that years and years of close day-to-day contacts with tens of thousands of young North Koreans would not have yielded rare, systematic and valuable insights into an otherwise essentially closed country. Seemingly innocent information (what music do you like) and more substantial data (how happy are you) have continuously flowed into the office of the South Korean intelligence service, providing a barometer of the mood in North Korea. Last but not least, with all other channels closed, Kaesong was one of the few, if not the only option for an informal dialogue at times when bilateral talks were officially impossible but urgently necessary to prevent an escalation or to smooth the way to better relations. The existing hotlines have now been cut at a time when the next round of military maneuvers of South Korean and US troops will likely trigger an angry response from Pyongyang. These were all good reasons for Seoul to keep the KIZ open despite, or perhaps rather because of the otherwise rocky relationship with Pyongyang. But that era is now over and Kaesong has been closed. There is no doubt that it is the sovereign right of any state to cancel joint economic projects and to withdraw investments, but was it a wise decision? The rationale for closing Kaesong seems to be that North Korea has to be punished for the January 6 nuclear test and the February 7 rocket launch and that this time the punishment has to be different. Pyongyang will miss the US$ 100 million annually, but will it miss the money enough to trigger a change in its behavior? That is far from certain, given that this amount of money is merely a fraction of North Korea’s exports to China. And there are many options to make up for the loss; among the wildcards in this respect is Russia, a country that is perhaps even less inclined than China to adhere to US demands for sanctions. The South Korean Ministry of Unification argues that the revenue from Kaesong has been used to upgrade North Korea’s nuclear weapons and long-range missiles, however with little evidence. It’s not like payments were made in cash with marked notes that could be clearly tracked. For that matter, the same could be said for any payment to North Korea, for example in the context of tourism or trade. But will it be legally possible to ban free citizens of Western countries, not to mention China, to travel? And would this be a good idea? As an East German, I can only repeat how deeply subversive the experience of observing, let alone interacting with, West Germans was before unification. And let’s not forget that money that ends up on the markets in North Korea helps the non-state part of the economy to flourish and strengthens the new middle class that has developed over the past decade or so. Cutting all this off would be a stupid thing to do for any government that aims at economic and other reform in North Korea. It would also be interesting to know which components of the North Korean nuclear and missile programs really depend on imports. Given the harsh sanctions and the proud claims of the Pyongyang government, it seems that after decades of research and initial external input, the programs are currently more or less indigenous. If this is true, then a reduction in hard currency income will achieve nothing. In addition, it is yet unclear how the government in South Korea—often called East Asia’s most developed democracy—came to this decision. For a step of such significance, and considering the potential countermeasures by the North, one would hope that it had been discussed in Seoul thoroughly with all relevant parties, particularly the businesses who suffer directly from the closure, and the opposition parties. Although it might be too early to tell, unlike in previous cases when Kaesong was affected, it seems that the South Korean decision to close the zone is not a temporary signal, but a permanent decision. Given the many positive aspects of that project as mentioned above, it would not be a very forward-looking step. Where do we pick up when things calm down again, as they have always done? The fate of the Mt. Kumgang tourism project is not very uplifting in this regard. It was closed in 2008 after one million South Koreans had a chance to visit North Korea. Rather than opening another tourism project with South Korea or giving in otherwise, North Korea turned to China—successfully, as it seems—with now about 100,000 visitors annually. Something similar could happen this time if Pyongyang improves conditions for investment in the Northern zones of Sinuiju and Rason, or in any other of the over two dozen special economic zones across the country. The case of China has shown that concerns over human rights or the freedom of Tibet have not deterred Western enterprises from investing, as long as the chances for making profits were big enough. North Korea, with its abundant natural resources and its proximity to China, has even greater potential than South Korea before its “economic miracle.” The case of Japan shows that North Korea is able to react quickly to changing conditions. Until 2001 Japan was North Korea’s biggest trading partner; the failure to resolve the abductee issue reduced this trade to almost zero, but North Korea found new partners while Japan lost a major source of influence and intelligence. In return for depriving North Korea of a relatively small amount of money which has questionable relevance for its nuclear and missile programs and will likely be made up for from other sources, South Korea gives up substantial economic, political and intelligence benefits. Some politicians might hope this move makes a strong statement ahead of the South Korean parliamentary elections in April. However, it is in the eye of the beholder whether the balance is positive or negative.” (Ruediger Frank, “The Kaesong Closure: Punishment Or Shot in the Foot?” 38North, February 12, 2016) William Brown: “Ruediger Frank, in his February 12 article on 38 North, opines that in closing the Kaesong Industrial Zone (Kaesong or KIZ), South Korea may have “shot itself in the foot.” I beg to differ, sharply. Closure might not change North Korea’s nuclear and missile development, but it can open the door to reform driven by the continued slow-motion collapse of North Korea’s command economy, of which, Kaesong has been an integral part. Furthermore, as a reformed economy is probably the only thing that will convince Kim Jong Un to quit his nuclear ambitions, we should make all efforts to encourage economic reform in North Korea. First, and a minor point, Frank appears to exaggerate the data, stating that Kaesong’s $100 million in annual income to the North Korean state is equivalent to only one percent of the country’s total trade volume. That says North Korean foreign trade equals about $10 billion a year, which seems rather high. Just released data from China indicates that North Korean trade with China in 2015 amounted to about $5.4 billion (plus about $600 million in free crude oil no longer included in the official statistics) and that is most of North Korea’s trade. But why even compare the government’s income from Kaesong to the total volume of trade? Aside from the crude oil, North Korean exports and imports are nearly in balance given the country’s lack of credit and small amount of aid receipts, so any loss of income translates directly into the loss in the state’s ability to buy what it needs. In that respect, $100 million a year is not a small amount. It is twice the amount spent on Chinese computer related imports, for example, and six times the amount spent on Chinese grain imports. Much more important is the role that Kaesong has played in keeping alive the state enterprise or command economy system. It follows a long list of West European, Japanese and even American projects putatively aimed at helping North Korea transform its economy, but which instead have helped it degenerate into the mess it is today. Feeding the state these foreign interventions has allowed Pyongyang to muddle along without allowing an efficient private export industry to develop, something terribly needed by the people so they can earn money to feed and support themselves. I’m pretty sure if China had been the recipient of such largess, it also would not have reformed along Deng Xiaoping’s lines in the 1980s. The specific economic problem with Kaesong is that the 54,000 workers there have never been paid in real money; instead, they have been provided rations from the state agency that manages the project. Most outsiders don’t seem to understand this since the wages are negotiated in US dollars (about $75 a month plus a large amount of overtime) and the South Korean firms pay this to the state agency. The workers get a portion, but as exchanged at the official rate of about 170 North Korean won per dollar, instead of the market rate of about 8,000 won per dollar—mere lip service to UN labor rules that say workers must be paid directly. So even if the worker received the entire dollar amount of her wage, her buying power would equate to only about two kilograms of rice a month in the Kaesong market. Or maybe $5.00. Even in North Korea, this is nothing. No money circulates to employ other people in the village, encourage private activities, or to save and invest—a perfect solution for Pyongyang’s otherwise frustrated and scarred central planners. Of course, the socialist system is supposed to provide every worker a food ration, free housing and education, and health care for what it is worth, so they may not need money to survive. And South Korean managers often provide perks unavailable in domestic factories, which the workers sell in the markets for a little pocket money. In my view, the only correct way to describe such an employment system is slavery. One definition of slavery might be a system in which workers are not paid directly, lest money give them the power to become independent of their employer. The women of Kaesong have none of the economic power that real wages would provide. They work difficult jobs far from their families, are bused often at long distances from their dormitories, and are rotated out every several years. They can be fired at the whim of their Workers’ Party bosses. How can this be a good experience for them? And how can the rest of the world countenance this kind of state behavior? An American analogy might be British support for Southern cotton plantations prior to the Civil War amid suggestions that this was good for the slaves since it supported their employment. So what will become of the 54,000 workers suddenly let go from Kaesong? They will be sent back to their family homes, but I suspect they will not fare much worse. Fortunately, a new phenomenon is occurring in North Korea as a result of the drying up of Western and South Korean aid—Pyongyang is being forced to allow private activities that generate foreign exchange earnings. The May 30, 2013 administrative measures, for example, allowed some pilot exporting firms to pay workers up to 300,000 won per month, 100 times the ordinary fixed wage schedule paid by state enterprises, in a bid to increase export goods production. In real terms, this is still a small wage but a livable one even completely apart from the command economy, and one that seems to be catching on. I suspect small Korean-Chinese investors are the ones taking advantage, employing many workers similar to those employed in Kaesong but in old decrepit factories in industrial North Korean cities. I don’t know how well these pilots are working, but North Korean exports of the kinds of things such factories produce—textiles for example—have increased in the last couple of years, and markets of all kinds seem to be expanding rapidly. Amazingly, US dollars now flow freely within the economy. This comes at a big cost to state enterprises which are funded in won or are supplied directly through the central plan. The state enterprises are suffering loss of workers and material support with devastating impact on the important services they normally provide, such as electricity, rail transportation and the products of heavy industry. The military has high priority but even it is not immune from state resource constraints and increasingly has to earn dollars to compete for resources from the private sector. This is why the Kaesong dollars are so important. Hopefully, with the closure of Kaesong, North Korean authorities will have to expand the export earning pilots, maybe to Kaesong itself, or even throw out the socialist wage system. A new deal in which Kaesong is reopened with direct pay to workers and a reasonable tax cut for the state would signal real economic reform and should be welcomed by all sides.” (William Brown, “The Economics of Kaesong,” 38North, February 12, 2016) Ruediger Frank: Brown and I seem to agree that a reformed economy is something to aim for in North Korea. We seem to disagree over how this should be achieved. I use systematic scholarly evidence from China and Vietnam documented in countless books, as well as my own anecdotal evidence on the ground in North Korea and Northeastern China, to argue that “success breeds success,” and that more substantial reforms will follow after smaller reforms have produced positive effects. I disagree with the idea that sustainable and substantial reforms will be the result of an economic crisis. Pressure will NOT do the trick, it rather helps those in Pyongyang who argue that the country is under attack and thus personal (economic and political) interests needs to be subordinated under national (security) interests. The South Korean president seems to have thought the same; she called her policy Trustpolitik in an obvious reference to Willy Brandt’s Ostpolitik. And you know what, in Germany’s case, it worked. Or why would Franz Josef Strauss, one of West Germany’s most hardline anti-Communists, have together with Helmut Kohl negotiated a 1 billion Deutschmark loan to Erich Honecker in 1983? On a more technical matter, Brown questions the statement that the 100 million from Kaesong amount to only 1 percent of North Korean trade. South Korea’s KOTRA is the leading authority on that topic. They publish an annual report which in its latest version says that in 2014, total North Korean trade was US$ 7.6 billion, excluding trade with South Korea, which would be another US$ 1 billion annually. That’s 8.6 billion. Add unrecorded trade. What is this? All one needs to do is take a plane or train from China to NK and see how many goods are transported this way, or drive along the Chinese border with North Korea and keep your eyes open. I did. Or read reports about illegal trade with copper, crystal meth and so forth. Or think about arms trade that would typically be a rather shady business. To be sure, this does not produce reliable numbers but it led me to understand that what finds its way into official statistics is not all there is. Finally, when it comes to North Korea related economic data, I like rounding such figures to make sure everyone understands these are only rough estimates. I think among the big fallacies in North Korean Studies is the pretense of possessing statistics that are correct to the point. That’s why I would usually write 100 million if the number I found or calculated is 120 million, and this is why I used the 10 billion figure as an estimate of North Korea’s foreign trade volume. Why compare the income from Kaesong to the country’s trade at all? Because trade is North Korea’s only alternative to acquiring hard currency, and because I could not think of any other figure that we could use as a sensible benchmark. As for the argument that aid prevents change, I agree in principle. Last Sunday was the 250th birthday of a certain Mr. Malthus who thought along a similar line, and who am I to challenge his views. Indeed, we have countless frustrating examples from all over the world where permanent receivership has only created bigger problems. But there are two reasons why I disagree with the notion that doing business with and in North Korea leads to such effects. The first one is that Mr. Brown and others seem to imply that business equals aid (or that talking is a concession). This is simply not true, at least not since the end of preferential trade agreements with socialist countries around 1990. Western companies do business in North Korea because they want to earn money. I have talked to dozens of businessmen (and women), starting in 1991 with a Dutch gentleman who had raw diamonds cut in Pyongyang and then brought them back to Europe. He was anything but a nice, naive left-leaning idealist. That guy wanted to make money, and he did. That’s as simple as it is. The second reason is that in addition to economic effects, there are political and ideological effects as well. There are pundits who argue that the North Korean propaganda successfully manages to portray Western business in North Korea as a kind of kowtow in front of the leader, as a humble tribute of the barbarian who should be honored by the fact that his present is generously accepted even though it comes from such impure hands. This is total nonsense. North Koreans are under the influence of a strong ideology, but they are neither blind nor idiots. Did Kaesong “keep alive the state enterprise or command economy system”? No, it did not. It undermined it. Mr. Brown writes: “I’m pretty sure if China had been the recipient of such largess, it also would not have reformed along Deng Xiaoping’s lines in the 1980s.” That’s an interesting point, considering that for example Volkswagen went to China in 1978 and established Shanghai Volkswagen Automotive in 1984. That’s a degree of “largess” that North Korea can only dream about. OK, Volkswagen means “People’s Car,” so perhaps…Mr. Brown and others are most probably right in pointing out that the 54,000 North Korean workers in Kaesong did not receive a single US dollar; this is why I estimated the NK state’s income from that project at US$ 100 million (US$ 100 a month, times 12 months, times 54000 women, plus X) and not at 30 million. Regarding the “official” rate, take a look at the image below. The same rate is being used officially and openly in Pyongyang in the Chinese Department Store in Kwangbok Street. Concerning slave labor… Mr. Brown has a point of course, but I have spoken with a number of such “slaves” and their employers in Yanbian/China, and it turns out that they bend over backwards to get these jobs. University graduates from Pyongyang work as waitresses, seamstresses, etc. and consider it a privilege to get such a chance. Now they could of course all have lied to me; at the end of the day I am just a German professor who knows nothing about the reality in North Korea. But that’s the only evidence I have. Will the North Korean government decide to create more opportunities for firms to operate according to market principles and use at least a portion of their profits, including in hard currency? Yes, I think so. But they will do so partly because of what they have learned from experiments like Kaesong, not despite of it. And for that US$ 100 million, they will find other sources. Russia and China are more than big enough to fill the gap. I know that many Japanese companies are already anxiously awaiting the day when the government in Tokyo finally declares the abductee issue as resolved, so that they can finally participate in exploiting North Korea’s mineral resources, cheap labor and land border to China. A really bad person would even suggest that the Tokyo government, mindful of the beatings it received over Tokdo/Takeshima and the Comfort Women issue, would silently enjoy the immediate angry protests from Seoul. Let me close with an argument that I have posted as a comment to the discussion to my Kaesong article. Why (only) now? If Seoul wins so much by closing the KIZ, why has the zone been left open despite [the sinking of the ROKN] Cheonan in 2010, [shelling of] Yeonpyeong in 2010, the 2009 nuclear test, the 2013 nuclear test, the 2015 landmine, and so forth? Talk is cheap; actions matter. The South Korean government (conservative since 2008) has been unhappy with North Korea’s nuclear program and other policies for many, many years. I believe that they have left Kaesong open until February 2016 is proof that until very recently, their assessment of the costs and benefits of the zone corresponded with mine. I wonder how and why this has changed, and would love to hear more about it.” Booseung Chang: “The February debate on 38 North between Ruediger Frank and William Brown … missed some important aspects of the KIZ, and included arguments based on misplaced assumptions about the reality of Kaesong. The most conspicuous of these dubious points was Brown’s assertion that Kaesong’s workers were “slaves.” This article will attempt to provide a more accurate picture of the KIZ, first by addressing the characterization of Kaesong workers as slaves, and then by considering Kaesong’s significance to both Koreas as well as its shutdown and possible future. Kaesong’s workers cannot necessarily be considered slaves, as Brown claims, for three reasons: 1) they were paid although not in dollars, but in goods; 2) they responded to price signals in a manner similar to workers in capitalist economies; and 3) the constant labor scarcity in Kaesong likely enabled them to avoid the most brutal abuses typically associated with slavery. Brown argues that each KIZ worker received minuscule compensation—on the order of $5 per month—because the North Korean government effectively garnished their wages through distortion of the exchange rate. According to Brown, South Korean companies provided all Kaesong salaries to the government, which in turn conveyed wages to workers at the very low official exchange rate of about 170 North Korean won per dollar. He suggested that workers had to re-exchange their won for US dollars at an extremely high black-market rate (about 8,000 North Korean won per dollar) to buy rice and other daily necessities at black markets. This description is only partially true. While the North Korean government indeed took 30 percent of the total labor compensation as a de facto tax, the remainder (70 percent) went to each worker, mostly in the form of ration coupons redeemable for rice and other goods at Kaesong’s state-run commissaries. Employees reportedly preferred the state-run commissaries to black markets because, with the coupons, they could purchase goods at more favorable prices. According to Song Yong-deung, a Korean-Australian whose company managed Kaesong’s commissaries from 2004 to 2006, the dollar value of commissary goods purchased by North Korean workers amounted to roughly 90 percent of their total wages after tax. That is, they actually consumed most of their disposable income over the three years that his company ran the commissaries. His estimate was based on the fact that workers were paid in the form of coupons, not actual cash, issued from the North Korean government’s General Central Bureau of Development and Supervision for the Special Zone (CGB), a subsidiary organ of the North Korean Cabinet, which manages the KIZ and which pays the workers. Workers would then use these coupons to purchase goods in the KIZ commissaries. Additionally, in order to purchase commissary inventory from countries like China and Malaysia, Song had to trade these coupons received from KIZ workers for actual US dollars also at the CGB. This recycling of coupons through the commissary provided a way to track how the coupons were being used and what portion was going toward consumption. Song’s experience provides only a limited picture, since he turned over management of the commissaries to the North Korean government in 2007. Since then, the North Korean government may have emptied the shelves of Kaesong’s commissaries to the extent of store inventories elsewhere in the country, rendering the coupons useless. For this reason, the recent real wages of KIZ workers require confirmation. In a recent OhMy News report, Kim Chin-hyang, who worked in the KIZ from 2008 to 2011, explained that since 2006, few changes had been made to the salary payment system of the KIZ, which was based on coupons and commissaries. Another South Korean official, who worked in the KIZ from 2013 until the February 2016 shutdown, explained that Kaesong’s workers “appeared to receive adequate nutrition through the commissaries.” Second, “slaves” do not typically receive extra pay in the form of incentives, bonuses and overtime premiums. The base monthly salary for each KIZ worker before the shutdown was $73.87 for 48 labor-hours per week,] but they generally earned far more than that through incentives and bonuses: they earned a 50 percent premium over their base hourly pay for each hour of overtime work, and earned double when working on holidays. As a result, some workers earned up to $240 per month while others earned as little as $150. For some, working extra hours was possible, in part, because physical conditions in the KIZ far surpassed those of other North Korean workplaces or of Kaesong residential areas. This pay disparity indicates that many Kaesong workers were willing to work longer hours in order to receive additional wages. They knew exactly how much they had earned each month, and to confirm that they received the proper amount on payday, each employee signed a ledger—shared by the North Korean government and South Korean companies—that contained the labor-hours of every worker. A kind of a price mechanism was therefore at work in the KIZ, though its signal was measured in hours and coupons rather than wages. Finally, the labor market in Kaesong was a “seller’s market” that benefited North Korean workers in key respects. As of October 2015, the number of North Korean workers in the KIZ was 54,357, while the population of the city of Kaesong was 192,574, based on the most recent available data. It means roughly 28 percent of Kaesong’s population worked in the KIZ. The South Korean companies demanded more labor, but supply was limited. Kaesong lacked dorms or apartments to accommodate more labor, and with the exception of roughly 200 commuter buses that connected Kaesong city to the KIZ, there was no long-distance transportation to bring in more laborers. Given this labor scarcity, workers who faced significant abuses, if any, on the shop floor presumably could move to other workplaces. Such conditions may not sound heavenly to residents of the free world, but they appeared wonderful to many North Koreans and are sufficient to cast doubt on Brown’s characterization of KIZ workers as “slaves.” While South Korean companies in the KIZ plainly benefited from employing a low-cost workforce with deeply limited opportunities outside their factories, Kaesong workers did enjoy a degree of independence through the site’s payment scheme and through the relative freedom of movement afforded by its labor market. Observers have often asked whether the KIZ helped to fund North Korea’s nuclear weapons and ballistic missile development. While the answer is not entirely clear, the KIZ could not have provided significant support to these programs. According to the announcement of the South Korean Ministry of Unification, a total of $110 million went to North Korea through the KIZ in 2015This total can be broken down into three parts: 1) after-tax salary; 2) tax or what North Korea calls “socio-cultural policy cost (SCPC)”; and 3) social insurance. If we assume that the total labor compensation is 100, for example, then, 70 will be after-tax salary, and 30 will be SCPC, and to this total labor compensation, social insurance premium of 15 is added (see Table 1).

Total Dollar Transfer to North Korea
* Equals base monthly salary times 12 months, multiplied by the number of North Korean workers in the KIZ ($48 million = $73.87 × 12 months × 54,357).

As we analyzed above, however, most of the after-tax salary are actually consumed by the workers. Therefore, it is roughly $43 million or 39 percent of the total dollar transfer (=$43m/$110m) that is left to the discretion of the North Korean government. According to the agreements signed between North and South Korea, the North Korean government is supposed to spend these funds to cover the costs of education, medicine and other public services including social infrastructure, industrial accident compensation, retirement annuity and social security for the KIZ workers and their families in Kaesong. In theory, it is possible the North Korean regime could have misused these funds for weapons. In practice, however, it would have been difficult given the public demand for use of those funds. Kaesong must have schools and hospitals, however low their quality may be. There must be police and fire stations, too. All these institutions must have employees who depend on government ration coupons to survive. There should also be utilities, roads and bridges that require at least minimum maintenance. What is the size of these actual demands? We do not know for sure how much this city of 200,000 needs for these purposes, but we can estimate. The South Korean city closest to Kaesong in size is Yangju, whose population as of 2015 was 204,907. Yangju’s total annual budget in 2014 was 493 billion South Korean won, meaning that its annual budget per citizen was 2.4 million South Korean won, or about $2,000. This per capita maintenance cost is not much different in the United States, where the city of Palo Alto budgeted $185.7 million annual general expenses in 2016 (excluding capital improvement and utilities). Using the city’s estimated population of 66,642 in 2013, the city’s per capita cost for the maintenance appears to be roughly $2,787 (=$185.7 million/66,642). If we suppose that the city of Kaesong spends one-tenth the amount of Yangju per citizen on maintenance, the annual cost required for Kaesong is approximately $39 million (=$200 X 192,574), which happens to approximate the combined annual amount of the SCPC and social insurance premium ($43 million). If our assumptions about the estimated maintenance cost of Kaesong are true, then not much money would go to Pyongyang because most of the “discretionary funds” would be consumed in Kaesong. While we cannot exclude the possibility that at least some KIZ funds may have ended up in Pyongyang—therefore possibly used for weapons—the city of Kaesong probably spent a significant portion of funds taxed from KIZ workers to meet the fundamental demands of the population. To the question of whether the KIZ was merely a form of unilateral aid to North Korea, the answer is a definite “no.” The South Korean companies in Kaesong, the South Korean employees of those companies, and the South Korean consumers who bought KIZ products at low prices all benefited from the KIZ. As of October 2015, there were 124 South Korean companies in the KIZ. Their projected output for 2015, based on the sum of the values added in the KIZ, was roughly $500 million, about five times more than the wages they paid to workers. In addition, if we calculate the total output based on the actual market prices of the final products, then the value of the total production may soar to $1.5 billion or more. Moreover, the KIZ created jobs for South Koreans. As of October 2015, 809 South Koreans also worked in the KIZ. If we include the number of workers in the South Korean offices of those companies as well as those employed by their subcontractors, the number of people employed because of Kaesong may have been much larger. South Korean consumers benefited from the KIZ, too. Its accumulated total production as of October 2015 was $3.14 billion. Of this total, South Korea exported products worth $268 million, or 8.5 percent of the total output. The remainder of the total output, worth $2.87 billion, was consumed by South Korean end-users.] As a result, for example, about 70 percent of all underwear and 30 percent of all clothing sold in South Korea came from the KIZ. In addition, a total of 679 middle and high schools in South Korea planned to procure school uniforms from KIZ factories prior to its February shutdown, and the students of those schools consequently had no uniforms when the new semester began in early March. Kaesong’s economic benefits were mutual, not a form of unilateral aid. In fact, the South reaped greater economic benefit from the KIZ than the North. Why then, despite all these benefits, did President Park close the KIZ? The reason is simple: realism overwhelmed functionalism. The KIZ was founded on functionalist thinking: that accumulated functional cooperation across borders will lead to peace and integration. A realist perspective, on the other hand, called for South Korea to stop any cooperation that tipped the balance of power in the North’s favor, no matter how large the South’s gains. North Korea’s recent nuclear test and satellite launch changed the South’s perception of Kaesong, regardless of whether Seoul’s cost-benefit analysis had shifted. In light of Pyongyang’s heightened threats, Seoul could no longer tolerate the possibility that even small amounts of KIZ funds were supporting the North Korean military. The lack of transparency in North Korea’s allocation of dollars from Kaesong contributed to this perception change. The KIZ’s instability was theoretically predictable even before it began operations. The late Seoul National University professor Ku Young-rok once told me, before he passed away in 2001, that if such inter-Korean cooperative projects succeeded, then political scientists would have to award President Kim Dae-jung for breaking new ground: previously, functionalism had worked only between parties that were not antagonistic toward one another. If functional cooperation created peace and integration between military opponents like North and South Korea, the success would have opened a new theoretical horizon in the study of international relations. The shutdown of Kaesong proved that the Korean peninsula remains far from that horizon. However, its closure must not mark the end of inter-Korean economic cooperation. Kaesong’s profitability revealed the potential of such cooperation. Its revenue model brought firsthand benefits to South Korean investors and consumers just as it supported North Korean leaders and workers, and all sides now understand the boon it represented. As long as memories of easy profits, cheap products, regular cash and hot water remain alive among Kaesong’s stakeholders, its economic model may yet be revived.” (Booseung Chang, “The Real economics of Kaesong,” 38North, March 30, 2016)


2/13/16:
The United States temporarily deployed an additional Patriot missile battery in South Korea in response to North Korea’s nuclear test and a long-range rocket launch, ahead of talks next week to set up an even more sophisticated U.S. missile defense in a move that has worried China and Russia. The U.S. military command in South Korea said that an air defense battery unit from Ft. Bliss, Texas, has been conducting ballistic missile training using the Patriot system at Osan Air Base near Seoul. Lt. Gen. Thomas Vandal, commander of the U.S. Eighth Army, said “exercises like this ensure we are always ready to defend against an attack from North Korea.” “North Korea’s continued development of ballistic missiles against the expressed will of the international community requires the alliance to maintain effective and ready ballistic missile defenses,” he said in a statement. A spokeswoman for U.S. Forces Korea couldn’t confirm how long the Patriot missile battery from Texas would be deployed in South Korea. The U.S. military already has an operating Patriot missile defense system in South Korea to counter the threat of North Korea’s shorter-range arsenal and medium-range missiles. (Associated Press, “U.S. Deploys More Patriot Missiles in South Korea,” Asahi Shimbun, February 13, 2016)


2/14/16:
South Korea’s point man on inter-Korean affairs said he believes that North Korea has used wages paid to its workers at the joint inter-Korean factory complex to develop nuclear and other military weapons. In a television appearance, Unification Minister Hong Yong-pyo said “70 percent” of the money that flowed into the Kaesong Industrial Complex has been used by the ruling Workers’ Party to bankroll weapons development. “Workers at Kaesong are paid in cash (U.S. dollars), but the money doesn’t go directly to these workers. It goes to the North Korean government instead,” Hong said. “Any foreign currency earned in North Korea is transferred to the Workers’ Party, where the money is used to develop nuclear weapons or missiles, or to purchase luxury goods.” When asked if South Korea should have shut down the complex earlier, Hong responded by saying the positive impact of running the factory park outweighed the risk of financing the North’s weapons programs until now. “The international community recognized the significance of operating the Kaesong Industrial Park,” Hong said. “So we continued to keep the place in operation despite multiple nuclear tests. We decided to shut it down this time because North Korea was only going to intensify its weapons development, and we needed to make a decisive move to alleviate our people’s security concerns.” Hong said the decision to close down the factory zone was solely South Korea’s, adding, “China and other neighbors showed some interest in the matter, but we reached the decision on our own.” The minister added he hasn’t identified any problems in the area since the South Korean workers were pulled. Hong said the government was prepared for the North’s expulsion of South Korean workers and its freezing of South Korean assets. “It goes against international norms for North Korea to arbitrarily freeze our assets,” Hong added. “We’ll do the best we can to recover them, but North Korea is unlikely to budge and there’s only so much we can do.” Asked if the closure of the complex has hit South Korea harder than North Korea, the minister said the damage should be considered in relative terms. “Given the discrepancy in the sizes of our economies, I think North Korea is clearly reeling from this,” Hong added. He also said the ball is now in the North Korean court. “The shutdown was basically intended to teach North Korea a lesson, and it’ll be now up to North Korea,” Hong said. “When North Korea shows sincere willingness to assuage our and the international community’s concerns, then we can discuss normalizing operations [at Kaesong].” (Yonhap, “S. Korea Says N. Korea Used Kaesong Wages to Develop Weapons,” February 14, 2016) South Korea’s point man on unification reversed his claim February 15 that North Korea has used wages paid to its workers at a joint industrial park for its nuclear and missile program. Unification Minister Hong Yong-pyo said yesterday that 70 percent of the money that has flowed into the Kaesong Industrial Complex in the North has been funneled into the ruling Workers’ Party of Korea to bankroll its weapons development. Reversing what he said, the minister told lawmakers that there is no clear evidence for such speculation, apologizing for causing a stir. “If there is clear proof for the North’s misappropriation, it would constitute a breach of relevant U.N. resolutions,” Hong said. “There are concerns (speculation) about the North’s misuse of the money, but I’ve not said that there is clear evidence.” (Yonhap, “Unification Minister Reverses Claim over N.K. Kaesong Revenue Use,” February 15, 2016) “Most of the dollars we paid are presumed to have been funneled to the Workers’ Party responsible for nuclear and missile development, instead of being used to improve the lives of ordinary people,” President Park Geun-hye said in a nationally televised address at the National Assembly February 16. Park said South Korea cannot allow a situation to continue in which its money is used for North Korea’s nuclear and missile programs. (Yonhap, “Park: “S. Korea’s Money Ended up in N. Korea’s Nuclear Program,” February 16, 2016) Unification Minister Hong Yong-pyo reaffirmed his earlier claim that 70 percent of the money that has flowed into the Kaesong Industrial Complex in the North has been funneled into the North’s ruling Workers’ Party of Korea to bankroll its weapons development. “It is understood that 70 percent of the cash payment in U.S. dollars has gone to the ruling party’s Secretariat Office 39 and used for weapons and missile development or the regime’s own projects,” Hong told a parliamentary interpellation session. (Yonhap, “Minister Hong Reaffirms N. Korea Used Wages to Develop Nukes, Missiles,” February 18, 2016)

An expert in missile defense systems said the propellant explosion technology seen in North Korea’s recent long-range rocket launch could render useless the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) system South Korea and the US have all but officially decided to deploy on the Korean Peninsula. Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) emeritus professor Theodore Postol explained the situation in a series of email and telephone interviews with the Hankyore in the wake of the launch and the announcement that South Korea and the US have begun official discussions on THAAD deployment. One point Postol particularly noted about North Korea’s recent launch was the first stage’s explosion and separation into hundreds of scattered fragments. Indeed, the South Korean Ministry of National Defense noted on February 9 that Aegis radar showed tracks from some 270 exploded fragments from the first stage. “The explosion is believed to have been carried out through a self-destruct mechanism to prevent South Korea from collecting the propellant,” the ministry said at the time. Postol said use of the same self-destruct technology with North Korea’s Nodong missile would prevent THAAD radar from identifying an actual warhead. At the moment THAAD launches an interception missile, North Korea could explode its own warhead-carrying missile into multiple fragments. “Once the rocket completes its powered flight, it is at very high altitude where for all practical purposes there is no air-drag to slow up light objects relative to heavy objects,” Postol observed. “Thus, if a missile is cut into many pieces after it has completed its powered flight, all of the pieces will float along with its warhead payload on the same general trajectory,” he continued. “Cutting the missile into many pieces simply makes it possible for an adversary to create many false targets that a distant infrared homing interceptor would not be able to see in any detail.” In short, an interception missile would be rendered useless because of the large number of more or less identical targets. “All the interceptor sees are unresolved points of light, any one of which could be the warhead,” Postol explained. In particular, he noted that “[objects that are elongated and tumbling … will appear to change their brightness when they rotate from orientations that present a large projected area to the interceptor relative to orientations that present a small projected area.” “However, this information is not useful to the sensor because any of the objects, including the warhead, could be tumbling,” he concluded. Postol went on to note that “this technology could be applied to a North Korean Nodong ballistic missile carrying a nuclear warhead aimed at South Korea.” Postol was also highly critical of Seoul and Washington’s public claims that THAAD would not pose a threat to China. “To suggest that the THAAD radar is not capable of the FB [forward-based] mode is the same as suggesting that a tank that can travel 100 km to a destination and then return from that destination … is not capable of traveling 200 km to a more distant location,” he said in response to the argument that THAAD radar on the Korean Peninsula could not be used in FB mode. “It is the right of the South Korean government and people to choose to deploy THAAD in spite of this technical situation, but they should not take this action under the mistaken belief that China will not correctly assess the THAAD radar as a potential danger to its nuclear deterrent forces,” he added. (Yi Yang-in, “Missile Defense Systems Expert Says THAAD Could Prove Useless,” Hankyore, February 14, 2016)

North Korea has formed a new military unit to deploy a road-mobile intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM), multiple South Korean government sources said. They said the KN-08 Brigade, designated after the ICBM of the same name, is a subordinate unit of the Strategic Forces, which oversees all missile units in the North. Sources said it indicates North Korea has inched closer to fielding the road-mobile ICBM. Last week, U.S. Director of National Intelligence James Clapper said North Korea “has already taken initial steps toward fielding this (KN-08) system, although the system has not been flight-tested.” Clapper also said Pyongyang was committed to developing “a long-range, nuclear-armed missile that is capable of posing a direct threat” to the United States. (Yonhap, “N. Korea Launches New ICBM Unit: Sources,” February 14, 2016)

The threat of an American missile defense system being stationed in South Korea appears to have concentrated minds in Beijing on how to punish Pyongyang. China now seems ready to support limited United Nations sanctions against North Korea over a recent nuclear test and rocket launches, partly in response to U.S. pressure, experts said. Beijing has reacted angrily to the prospect of the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) system being deployed in South Korea, but a tougher line from Washington and Seoul seems to be having some effect on Beijing’s calculations, experts said. At the very least, Beijing is now talking up the prospect of stiffer sanctions against North Korea. In an editorial today, China Daily argued that the missile defense system was not the answer to the North Korean crisis. “There will be no ground for its introduction, should the parties agree to a sanctions package that is sufficient for Pyongyang to reevaluate its nuclear program,” the editorial said. “For that to happen, the new U.N. resolution must truly bite.” The editorial echoes comments by Foreign Minister Wang Yi, who told Reuters in Munich on February 12 that the United Nations should adopt a resolution to ensure “North Korea will pay the necessary price and to show there is a consequence for its behavior.” China, of course, would never admit it was reacting to American pressure. It still favors much weaker sanctions than those proposed by the United States and is likely locked in negotiations to “soften the blow,” according to Yanmei Xie, a senior China analyst at the International Crisis Group in Beijing. It could even be argued that Beijing is merely hyping the likely effect of a limited sanctions package to convince Seoul that the anti-missile system deployment is unnecessary — and to cast Washington as the real troublemaker. Still, even nationalist tabloid Global Times argued today that China should shift policy toward North Korea in the face of “mounting pressure and growing challenges.” It argued that elite and public opinion was changing, with greater numbers of people now seeing North Korea as a “burden and an annoying neighbor rather than an old friend.” This in turn led to a shift in favor of actions that “make Pyongyang feel pain for its obduracy.” “The more China’s policy in this regard departs from public opinion, the more political cost China has to pay,” Global Times wrote. (Simon Denver, “As U.S. Pressure Mounts, China Talks up Prospect of N. Korea Sanctions That ‘Bite,’” Washington Post, February 15, 2016)


2/15/16:
North Korean leader Kim Jong Un has praised scientists involved in the country’s recent rocket launch that he said struck a “telling blow” to enemies and ordered them to press ahead with more launches, state media reported. (Associated Press, “North Korea’s Kim Orders More Rocket Launches,” February 15, 2016)

South Korea is questioning North Korea’s eligibility to be a member of the United Nations in connection with its recent provocations in breach of U.N. resolutions. During a U.N. open discussion today on the U.N. charter’s principles and goals, South Korea’s U.N. ambassador Oh Joon questioned whether North Korea still has the right to be a U.N. member after reneging on membership obligations. “Twenty-five years ago, the DPRK solemnly pledged to comply with the obligations of the U.N. Charter as a new member, but during the past decade, the DPRK has persistently violated all Security Council resolutions on the DPRK,” Oh said. “This is not only a direct challenge to the authority of the Security Council, but also a contradiction to both the letter and spirit of the pledge it made. This breach of obligation by the DPRK calls into question its qualification as a member of the United Nations,” Oh added. South Korea’s Deputy U.N. Ambassador Hahn Choong-hee continued questioning the North’s qualifications during a meeting of the Special Committee on the Charter of the U.N. on the 16th. It is the first time that South Korea has taken issue with the North’s U.N. membership since the two Koreas jointly entered the international body in 1991. Analysts cast doubt over whether South Korea’s move will pay off.

“It is unlikely to happen, as suspension of U.N. membership also needs the agreement of the 15-member Security Council (UNSC) which includes China and Russia,” said Lee Jang-hie, an emeritus professor of the law school at Hankuk University of Foreign Studies. According to article 5 of the U.N. Charter, a U.N. member, against which preventive or enforcement action has been taken by the UNSC, may be suspended from the exercise of the rights and privileges of membership upon the recommendation of the UNSC. The “recommendation” should be made in the form of a UNSC resolution, Lee noted. Cho Chang-beom, vice president of World Federation of United Nations Associations, also said it’s hardly expectable, noting other countries like Syria and Iran have reneged on U.N. obligations, but calls have yet to be made for suspension of their membership. “We can ask North Korea to respect international regulations like human rights laws because it is a member of the international community,” Lee added. “It is more beneficial for us to leave the country as a U.N. member.” (Kim Hyo-jin, “South Korea Questions North Korea’s UN Membership, Korea Times, February 19, 2016)


2/16/16:
Park: “It has now become indisputably clear that the existing approach and good intentions will by no means work in countering the North Korean regime’s determination to develop nuclear weapons, but will only lead to the enhancement of the North’s nuclear capabilities, with catastrophic implications for the Korean Peninsula. We can no longer afford to be pushed around by North Korea’s deceit and intimidation. Gone are the days when we caved in to the North’s provocations and unconditionally pumped aid into the North. Now is the time for us to find a fundamental solution to bringing about real change in the North and muster the courage to achieve that end. …We have lived far too long under the shadow of the North’s intimidation that we have admittedly become somewhat blithe about our security. Because we are one nation destined to be reunified, perhaps we have been burying our heads in the sand in the face of the uncomfortable reality that North Korea’s nuclear weapons are aimed at none other than us. We must cast away our incredulous nonchalance and the helplessness that comes from depending solely on the international community for sanctions. Now, we must spearhead strong international coordination and look to ourselves to mobilize every possible means to resolve the problem. The Government’s latest decision to completely shut down the operation of the Kaesong Industrial Complex is predicated on the recognition of the gravity of the situation and of the need to block the flow of foreign currencies into the North if we are to prevent it from upgrading its nuclear and missile capabilities. As you know, a total of 616 billion won in cash has been paid in dollars through the Kaesong Industrial Complex to date, with 132 billion won having flowed into North Korea just last year alone. Instead of being used to improve the lives of the North Korean people, it has been found that most of that money is being funneled into the leadership of the Workers` Party, which oversees the North`s nuclear and missile development. We cannot allow the situation to persist where we are, in effect, inadvertently redounding to the North Korean regime’s development of nuclear weapons and missiles. …The Government will reimburse the investments of businesses that have set up shop in Kaesong and provide active support so that their business operations can be normalized in the near future. We will tap into the Inter-Korean Economic Cooperation Fund insurance and swiftly disburse up to 90 percent of the amount invested into the Kaesong Industrial Complex…. From this moment on, the Government will employ tougher and more effective measures to create an environment in which the North keenly realizes that nuclear development does not offer the path to survival but will merely hastens the regime’s collapse, and therefore has no choice but to change of its own volition. …But no matter how strong and effective the sanctions turn out to be, those measures will only start to truly work when our country stands its ground and is resolved to steadfastly see those sanctions through to the very end, and when our people stand united behind those efforts. (President Park Geun-hye, Address to the National Assembly, February 16, 2016)

The floor leader of the conservative ruling party openly demanded a nuclear-armed South Korea, stressing that the time has come for the country to consider atomic weapons and longer-range missiles as effective deterrence against Pyongyang. “Considering North Korea’s nuclear [and missile capabilities], we need to think about our own survival strategy and countermeasures that include peaceful nuclear and missile programs for the sake of self-defense,” said Rep. Won Yoo-chul, the floor leader of the Saenuri Party. “We cannot borrow an umbrella from a neighbor whenever it rains,” he continued in an address Monday morning at the National Assembly. “We must be prepared and wear our own raincoat.” “The time has come for us to seriously consider effective and substantial measures of self-defense and deterrence against North Korea,” Won said.

Won proposed bringing back tactical nuclear weaponry from the United States — removed following the 1992 Joint Declaration on the Denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula — or developing South Korea’s own temporary nuclear arsenal as possible options. (Ser Myo-ja, “Saenuri Floor Leader Calls for a Nuclear South,” JoongAng Ilbo, February 16, 2016)


2/17/16:
Speaking to reporters after talks with Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi said China supports a new U.N. resolution that makes North Korea “pay the necessary price.” Wang described North Korea’s nuclear test and rocket launch as “serious” violations of the existing U.N. resolutions against Pyongyang. However, Wang said efforts to formally end the 1950-53 Korean War and denuclearization of North Korea should be pursued at the same time, echoing the demand by North Korea. The Korean War ended in a cease-fire, not a peace treaty. “North Korea’s nuclear test and satellite launch constituted a serious move against Security Council resolutions,” Wang said. “So, North Korea needs to pay the necessary price, and the purpose of ongoing discussions at the Security Council of adopting a new resolution is to stop North Korea from going any further down the path of developing nuclear weapons,” Wang said. Wang said Iran’s nuclear issue was resolved because there were decade-long negotiations between Iran and world powers. However, North Korea’s nuclear issue is at a standstill because the six-party talks have “broken down for eight years,” Wang said. (Yonhap, “N. Korea Must Pay ‘Necessary Price’ for Nuke Test, Rocket Launch: China FM,” February 17, 2016)

Foreign Minister Wang Yi said after a press conference with Australian Minister for Foreign Affairs Julie Bishop. “As chair country for the six-party talks [on the nuclear issue], China proposes talks toward both achieving denuclearization [of the Korean Peninsula] and replacing the [existing North Korea-US] armistice agreement with a peace treaty,” Wang declared. The proposal, Wang said, was intended to “find a way back to dialogue quickly.” He also argued that the approach would “also help in achieving a fundamental solution to the nuclear issue on the Korean Peninsula.” “He is saying that because the North Korean nuclear issue is a product of the Cold War system on the Korean Peninsula, you can’t resolve it without also offering ideas for overcoming that Cold War system,” said Inje University professor Kim Yeon-chul of Wang’s proposal. “He’s pleading for a revival of the basic spirit of the six-party talks,” Kim concluded In terms of its formal logic, Wang’s proposal occupies a middle ground between the official South Korean and US positions on one side and North Korea’s on the other. So far, the two sides have been marching in parallel lines, with Seoul and Washington demanding that North Korea prove a sincere intent to denuclearize before any dialogue or negotiation and Pyongyang insisting, as a Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesperson’s statement from December 3, 2015, put it, on “a peace treaty first, denuclearization discussions later.” In reality, Beijing’s position is tipped slightly more toward Pyongyang; neither Seoul nor Washington has mentioned the possibility of discussing normalization of relations with North Korea or a peace regime on the Korean Peninsula lately. This suggests China has deemed it necessary to listen more to North Korea if the aim is to prevent any further nuclear tests and rocket launches and get the six-party talks started again. So far, Seoul has been dismissive of Wang’s proposal. Speaking at a regular briefing on February 18, Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesperson Cho Joon-hyuk said the “priority must be on North Korea stopping its provocations and showing a sincere commitment to denuclearize.” The US has yet to give any official response — but it is worth noting that it has not dismissed the proposal out of hand. “The prospects of Washington continuing to push ahead with sanctions against North Korea are unrealistic,” said a South Korean government source with experience in the six-party talks. “There’s a chance the US will start taking the peace treaty issue seriously once time passes. The danger for the South Korean government is that it’s going to end up isolated by insisting on going all in’ on sanctions and pressure against the North,” the source added. Clinton, who is considered the front-runner in the US presidential race, previously shared ideas for the future of North Korea-US relations in an address to the Asia Society on Feb. 13, 2009, during her time as Secretary of State. “If North Korea is genuinely prepared to completely and verifiably eliminate their nuclear weapons program, the Obama administration will be willing to normalize bilateral relations, replace the peninsula‘s long-standing armistice agreements with a permanent peace treaty and assist in meeting the energy and other economic needs of the North Korean people,” she said at the time. It’s a message Clinton later reiterated at the ASEAN Regional Forum that July, just after North Korea’s third nuclear test. In an autobiography titled “Hard Choices” that she published on the eve of her presidential bid in 2014, Clinton recalled the “invitation” she extended to Pyongyang with her 2009 vision. “[A]s with Iran, another regime with nuclear ambitions, we started off with the offer of engagement,” she wrote. From Beijing’s standpoint, a possible approach may be hold a summit with North Korea so that President Xi Jinping can use the promise of increased economic cooperation to coax a promise of a moratorium on nuclear testing and rocket launches, swift action to freeze the nuclear program, and a return to the six-party talks from leader Kim Jong-un. From there, it would then go on to hold discussions with the Obama administration and attempt to make significant progress in denuclearization and peace treaty talks by the time the next US administration — presumably under Clinton — is sworn into office. “What Wang Yi proposed was that all parties follow the terms of the September 19 Joint Statement,” said a former senior South Korean government official familiar with the six-party talks situation, referring to an agreement reached at the talks in 2005. “The September 19 Joint Statement accords with everyone‘s interests: North Korea abandoning its nuclear weapons and development program, normalizing North Korea-US relations, and establishing a peace regime on the Korean Peninsula,” the former official continued. “We need a more forward-thinking approach from the Park administration.” (Lee Je-hun, “Could Wang’s Two-Track Proposal Lead to Breakthrough?” Hankyore, February 19, 2016) In basic terms, Wang’s proposal differs little from Beijing’s standard position to date on Korean Peninsula issues. The important aspect is the timing, with Beijing making its first formal calls for a two-track denuclearization and peace treaty negotiation approach after North Korea‘s fourth nuclear test on January 6. The proposal, Wang said, was intended to “find a way back to dialogue quickly.” He also argued that the approach would “also help in achieving a fundamental solution to the nuclear issue on the Korean Peninsula.” “He is saying that because the North Korean nuclear issue is a product of the Cold War system on the Korean Peninsula, you can’t resolve it without also offering ideas for overcoming that Cold War system,” said Inje University professor Kim Yeon-chul of Wang’s proposal. “He’s pleading for a revival of the basic spirit of the six-party talks,” Kim concluded. Wang’s proposal occupies a middle ground between the official South Korean and US positions on one side and North Korea’s on the other. So far, the two sides have been marching in parallel lines, with Seoul and Washington demanding that North Korea prove a sincere intent to denuclearize before any dialogue or negotiation and Pyongyang insisting, as a Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesperson’s statement from December 3, 2015, put it, on “a peace treaty first, denuclearization discussions later.” In reality, Beijing’s position is tipped slightly more toward Pyongyang; neither Seoul nor Washington has mentioned the possibility of discussing normalization of relations with North Korea or a peace regime on the Korean Peninsula lately. This suggests China has deemed it necessary to listen more to North Korea if the aim is to prevent any further nuclear tests and rocket launches and get the six-party talks started again. So far, Seoul has been dismissive of Wang’s proposal. Speaking at a regular briefing on February 18, Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesperson Cho Joon-hyuk said the “priority must be on North Korea stopping its provocations and showing a sincere commitment to denuclearize.” The US has yet to give any official response — but it is worth noting that it has not dismissed the proposal out of hand. “The prospects of Washington continuing to push ahead with sanctions against North Korea are unrealistic,” said a South Korean government source with experience in the six-party talks. “There’s a chance the US will start taking the peace treaty issue seriously once time passes. The danger for the South Korean government is that it’s going to end up isolated by insisting on going all in’ on sanctions and pressure against the North,” the source added. For its part, the Chinese government doesn’t appear to be expecting an immediate positive response from South Korea or the US. Wang‘s remarks about “hoping for concrete discussions at a suitable time” can be read as suggesting that no answer is needed right away. Instead, former South Korean Unification Minister and current Korea Peace Forum permanent representative Jeong Se-hyun, sees the move as a medium- to long-term gesture assuming that the UNSC resolution and a Workers’ Party of Korea Congress in early May will be followed by a North Korea-China summit and the eventual election of Hillary Clinton as US President. Clinton, who is considered the front-runner in the US presidential race, previously shared ideas for the future of North Korea-US relations in an address to the Asia Society on February 13, 2009, during her time as Secretary of State. “If North Korea is genuinely prepared to completely and verifiably eliminate their nuclear weapons program, the Obama administration will be willing to normalize bilateral relations, replace the peninsula‘s long-standing armistice agreements with a permanent peace treaty and assist in meeting the energy and other economic needs of the North Korean people,” she said at the time. It’s a message Clinton later reiterated at the ASEAN Regional Forum that July, just after North Korea’s third nuclear test. In an autobiography titled “Hard Choices” that she published on the eve of her presidential bid in 2014, Clinton recalled the “invitation” she extended to Pyongyang with her 2009 vision. “[A]s with Iran, another regime with nuclear ambitions, we started off with the offer of engagement,” she wrote. From Beijing’s standpoint, a possible approach may be hold a summit with North Korea so that President Xi Jinping can use the promise of increased economic cooperation to coax a promise of a moratorium on nuclear testing and rocket launches, swift action to freeze the nuclear program, and a return to the six-party talks from leader Kim Jong-un. From there, it would then go on to hold discussions with the Obama administration and attempt to make significant progress in denuclearization and peace treaty talks by the time the next US administration — presumably under Clinton — is sworn into office. “What Wang Yi proposed was that all parties follow the terms of the September 19 Joint Statement,” said a former senior South Korean government official familiar with the six-party talks situation, referring to an agreement reached at the talks in 2005. “The September 19 Joint Statement accords with everyone‘s interests: North Korea abandoning its nuclear weapons and development program, normalizing North Korea-US relations, and establishing a peace regime on the Korean Peninsula,” the former official continued. “We need a more forward-thinking approach from the Park administration.” (Lee Je-hun, “Could Wang’s Two-Track Proposal Lead to a Breakthrough?” Hankyore, February 19, 2016)

A formation of four U.S. F-22 stealth fighters swept through the skies of South Korea on as the militaries of South Korea and the U.S. flexed their muscles against North Korea following its nuclear and missile tests. The four F-22 Raptors flew at a low altitude over U.S. Forces Korea’s Osan Air Base in Gyeonggi Province, 55 kilometers south of Seoul, in the latest of the allies’ continuing show of force after North Korea’s recent provocations. The nuclear-propelled USS North Carolina attack submarine joined a combined training exercise in the East Sea with South Korea earlier this week, while the nuclear-powered aircraft carrier USS John C. Stennis is also scheduled to join annual South Korea-U.S. defense drills slated to open in March. Previous deployments of the Raptor on the Korean Peninsula reportedly scared late North Korean leader Kim Jong-il into holing up and not making public outings. It is rare for the U.S. to deploy four units of the stealth fighter to South Korea all at once. (Yonhap, “U.S. Deploys F-22s in S. Korea against N. Korea,” February 17, 2016)

KCNA: “There took place a ceremony of conferring party and state commendations on the scientists, technicians, workers and officials who contributed to the successful launch of the earth observation satellite Kwangmyongsong-4 at the Mansudae Assembly Hall on Wednesday [February 17] morning. Kim Jong Un, first secretary of the Workers’ Party of Korea, first chairman of the National Defense Commission of the DPRK and supreme commander of the Korean People’s Army, appeared at the ceremony. He declared the start of the ceremony and made a congratulatory speech. He said that space conquerors who demonstrated the self-esteem and authority of our great state and indomitable mettle of the strong people over the world were the best patriots and admirable heroes of Juche Korea. He noted that the great success of the satellite launch was made by the intense loyalty of the scientists of Juche Korea to the party and their ardent patriotism for the country and sweat. Our party values patriotism of the scientists loyal to the party and revolution, he noted. He, on behalf of the Workers’ Party of Korea, extended gratitude once again to space conquerors who instilled sure conviction and courage into the service personnel and people of the DPRK rushing forward like wind toward the 7th Congress of the Workers’ Party of Korea and made distinguished contribution to implementing the behests of leader Kim Jong Il. He indicated the principled stand and strategic tasks of the WPK on the space development. Conquering space is not just the path of science but that of revolution, independence and self-sustenance and the drive for defending the leader and upholding the party’s policies to implement the behests of the great leaders, and a fierce class struggle against the hostile forces seeking to usurp our peace and sovereignty, he said. He underscored the need to successfully launch more working satellites of Juche Korea faster by conducting a dynamic campaign of intelligence and drive of breaking through the cutting edge as demanded by the new era of Chollima and Mallima in order to more dynamically pave a wide avenue to conquering space. …” (KCNA, “Party, State Commendations Conferred on Contributors to Satellite Launch in Presence of Kim Jong-un,” February 19, 2016)

North Korea’s recently launched satellite is once again tumbling in orbit after stabilizing briefly, according to a U.S. official and other sources. The satellite update came as a key congressional watchdog agency said the U.S. military had not demonstrated its ability to protect the United States against a possible North Korea missile attack. The U.S. official, and two other sources with knowledge of the issue, said they are less concerned about the function of the satellite than with the technology involved in launching it. They added that the launch was clearly intended to demonstrate North Korea’s ability to launch an intercontinental ballistic missile. The U.S. Government Accountability Office, the research arm of Congress, highlighted concerns about missile attacks from North Korea in a report released today. “GMD flight testing, to date, was insufficient to demonstrate that an operationally useful defense capability exists,” the GAO said. GMD is an acronym for Ground-based Midcourse Defense, a type of missile defense system. The report said that the GMD had only demonstrated “a partial capability against small numbers of simple ballistic missile threats.” Ken Todorov, former deputy director of the Missile Defense Agency, said the organization faced a difficult balancing act in meeting the needs of the U.S. military and operating with limited resources for testing. Last month the Missile Defense Agency conducted a successful test of the ground-based U.S. missile defense system managed by Boeing Co. aimed at demonstrating the effectiveness of a redesigned “kill vehicle” built by Raytheon Co. The test purposely did not include an intercept by a ground-based interceptor but was designed to demonstrate the ability of new “divert thrusters” that were developed by Raytheon to maneuver the warhead. The report said that while there were benefits in the way the agency was acquiring the kill vehicle, challenges remained. It added that the Pentagon’s goal to reach 44 ground-based missile defense systems by the end of 2017 was based on a “highly optimistic, aggressive schedule” leading to “high-risk acquisition practices.” (Reuters, “North Korea Satellite Tumbling in Orbit Again,” February 18, 2016)

China called for South Korea and the U.S. to “withdraw” their plan to deploy an advanced U.S. missile defense system in South Korea, stepping up rhetoric against the possible deployment of a Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) battery. “With regard to the deployment of the THAAD missile defense system on the Korean Peninsula, we have expressed our firm opposition because it damages China’s national security interests,” China’s foreign ministry spokesman Hong Lei told a regular press briefing. “We hope that the relevant parties can withdraw the plan,” Hong said. Earlier in the day, a newspaper published by China’s ruling Communist Party warned that China should deploy more missile systems in Northeast Asia if the THAAD is deployed in South Korea. “Beijing should voice its objection to Seoul’s deployment of THAAD. If South Korea insists on doing so, China can take reference from Russia in responding to Eastern European countries’ deployment of U.S. anti-missile systems,” the state-run Global Times said in an editorial. “China will install more defensive missiles in Northeast Asia and take the highest-level precautions against the THAAD system,” the editorial read. (Yonhap, “China Urges S. Korea, U.S. to ‘Withdraw’ Plan to Deploy THAAD,” February 17, 2016)

The floor leader of South Korea’s main opposition party vowed to enact a special law to reopen the troubled inter-Korean joint factory park in North Korea, describing it as “a safety pin” for preventing a war between the two Koreas. “The Minjoo Party will enact a special law to revive the Kaesong Industrial Complex,” Lee Jong-kul said in a speech at the National Assembly. Currently, the opposition party cannot unilaterally pass any bill as it has only 108 seats in the 293-member parliament, though its chance of approving a special bill could go up if it wins a sweeping victory in the upcoming elections. South Koreans are set to go to the polls in April to elect new lawmakers. (Yonhap, “Opposition Party’s Floor Leader Calls for Special Law to Reopen Kaesong Complex,” February 17, 2016) The next day, Prime Minister Hwang Kyo-ahn said that the government maintains a denuclearization policy despite some debates on the possibility of the country’s own nuclear armament. “It is the government’s basic position that the nuclear armament is not permitted,” Hwang said during a National Assembly interpellation session. (Yonhap, “PM Rules out Possibility of Nuclear Armament,” February 18, 2016)

In a report to the UN Human Rights Council, special rapporteur for North Korean human rights Marzuki Darusman wrote the council should “advise [Kim] and other senior leaders that they may be investigated and, if found to be responsible, held accountable for crimes against humanity committed under their leadership.” Darusman also recommended the appointment of three experts to find “creative and practical” ways to hold the North Korean regime accountable.

The 13-page report will be considered by the Human Rights Council next month. (Chosun Ilbo, “UN Urged to Warn Kim Jong-un of War Crimes Charges,” February 17, 2016)


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President Barack Obama slapped North Korea with more stringent sanctions. Democratic and Republican lawmakers, many of whom say Obama hasn’t been tough enough on North Korea, overwhelmingly approved the bill last week and sent it to the White House. The House voted 408-2, following a unanimous vote by the Senate. (Associated Press, “U.S. Tightens Sanctions on North Korea after Nuclear Test and Rocket Provocations,” February 18, 2016) The bill includes: · A requirement for the President to sanction entities found to have contributed to North Korea’s WMD program, arms trade, human rights abuses, or other illicit activities. (Sanctioned entities may face civil or criminal penalties, as well as loss of access to the U.S. financial system.) · Mandatory sanctions for entities that are involved in North Korea’s mineral or metal trade, which contribute to a large component of the country’s foreign export earnings. · Discretionary authority for the President to sanction entities that provide support to persons sanctioned by the UN Security Council. · A requirement that the Treasury Department determine whether North Korea should be listed as “a jurisdiction of primary money laundering concern,” which would entail the application of new financial restrictions. · The blocking of any property belonging to the North Korean government, the Korean Workers’ Party, or a person acting on their behalf, if it comes under U.S. jurisdiction. · New sanctions authorities related to North Korean human rights abuses and violations of cybersecurity. · Authorization for the President to waive sanctions contained in the Act in order to facilitate humanitarian activities in North Korea. Certain activities including operations related to POW/MIA remains recovery missions are exempt from sanctions, and the President may also waive the application of sanctions contained in the Act on a case-by-case basis for national security or for other reasons. (National Committee on North Korea Summary of the North Korea Sanctions and Policy Enhancement Act of 2016, February 18, 2016)

Kim Jong Un recently ordered preparations for launching “terror” attacks on South Koreans, a top Seoul official said. In televised remarks, senior South Korean presidential official Kim Sung-woo said North Korea’s spy agency has begun work to implement Kim Jong Un’s order to “muster anti-South terror capabilities that can pose a direct threat to our lives and security.” He said the possibility of North Korean attacks “is increasing more than ever” and asked for quick passage of an anti-terror bill in parliament. Earlier today, Seoul’s National Intelligence Service briefed ruling Saenuri Party members on a similar assessment on North Korea’s attack preparations, according to one of the party officials who attended the private meeting. During the briefing, the NIS, citing studies on past North Korean provocations and other unspecified assessments, said the attacks could target anti-Pyongyang activists, defectors and government officials in South Korea, the party official said requesting anonymity because he wasn’t authorized to speak to media publicly. Attacks on subways, shopping malls and other public places could also happen, he said. The official quoted the NIS as saying North Korea could launch poisoning attacks on the activists and defectors, or lure them to China where they would be kidnapped. The Saenuri official refused to say whether the briefing discussed how the information was obtained. The NIS, which has a mixed record on predicting developments in North Korea, said it could not confirm its reported assessment. (Hyung-jin Kim, “Seoul’s Spy Service Says North Korea Is Preparing Attacks,” Associated Press, February 18, 2016)

Next month’s joint military drills by South Korea and the United States will simulate an endgame scenario for North Korea that has the military recover the entire territory of the peninsula after the collapse of the Kim Jong-un regime, a military official said. The relatively rare simulation — military operations are usually focused on hitting the North Korean leadership in Pyongyang — coincided with Defense Minister Han Min-koo saying that the annual war games would be “the biggest yet,” in line with President Park Geun-hye’s hardline policy toward North Korea. Seoul and Washington are slated to carry out annual Key Resolve and Eagle Foal drills from March 7 to April 30. Key Resolve, a computer-simulation exercise, is conducted for two weeks. According to the official, the war game is a multiple-stage drill that simulates war breaking out, military operations surrounding the North Korean capital of Pyongyang and operations that take place in the later stages of the war. “This year’s operations will involve recovering key facilities that are located deep within North Korea, all the way near its northern borders,” the official said. This means that the war game scenarios will simulate the military taking over the entire peninsula, beyond the North Korean capital. But the official said that the scenario was not affected in any way by recent North Korea provocations, stressing that it was already agreed upon last year. He added that Key Resolve had been conducted under the same scenario before. He explained that the biggest elements of North Korean threat are its leadership under Kim Jong-un and its weapons of mass destruction, which means it is important to neutralize related facilities north of Pyongyang.

The North’s main nuclear complex is located in Yongbyon, in the northwest corner of the country. “The scenario will include the special operations forces being deployed to border areas adjacent to China and Russia,” the official explained. The troops will attempt to keep the Chinese and Russian military in check, while trying to avoid altercations, he said. President Park two days ago said that the North must realize that its nuclear programs will lead to its downfall. According to Defense Minister Han, 290,000 of South Korean military personnel will take part, which is about 1.5 times more than usual. Around 15,000 soldiers from the U.S., including the Combat Aviation Brigade and Marine Expeditionary Brigade, will participate, which is also double the annual average. (Yoon Min-sik, “Korea-U.S. Drills to Map out N.K. Endgame Scenario,” Korea Herald, February 18, 2016) Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS John C. Stennis and B-2 stealth bombers, will join the allies’ annual Key Resolve and Foal Eagle joint military exercises next month, according to the Ministry of National Defense and the ROK-U.S. Combined Forces Command,. The plan to continuously send the U.S. assets, following the previous dispatch of a B-52 bomber, the nuclear submarine USS North Carolina and F-22 stealth fighters, is the allies’ apparent show of force against the North’s fourth nuclear test and launch of a long-range rocket. Defense Minister Han Min-koo told a National Assembly session, “Some 15,000 American troops will participate in the drills next month, which will take place on the largest-ever scale.” Last year, some 12,000 American troops and some 210,000 South Korean soldiers participated in the drills. Anonymous sources told reporters that the U.S. may also dispatch one of its Maritime Prepositioning Ship Squadrons (MPSRON) for the exercise. The maritime prepositioning ships provide combat commanders with persistent forward presence and rapid crisis response by pre-positioning combat equipment and supplies to support two Marine Expeditionary Brigades for up to 30 days. Another source noted that the amphibious transport dock ship USS New Orleans is also expected to participate in the allies’ annual Ssangyong (Double Dragon) amphibious landing training for marines and navy personnel, also scheduled to begin early next month. The U.S. Air Force’s airborne battle management and surveillance aircraft, the E-8 Joint Surveillance Target Attack Radar System (Joint STARS), could also possibly come to the peninsula, according to some reports. Washington has sent strategic assets here since North Korea conducted the fourth nuclear test on Jan. 6. On January 10, a B-52 Stratofortress strategic bomber performed a flyover at Osan Air Base, 55 kilometers south of Seoul, and the nuclear submarine USS North Carolina participated in a three-day joint exercise held in the East Sea February 13-15. (Jun Ji-hye, “More Strategic Assets Arriving in Korea,” Korea Times, February 18, 2016) The annual Korea-U.S. joint exercises will be the largest ever in terms of both “quality and quantity,” Defense Minister Han Min-goo told Saenuri Party officials at the National Assembly. Twice as many U.S. troops and double the equipment as before, or about 15,000 U.S. troops and hardware like a combat aviation brigade, a Marine mobile brigade, an aircraft carrier fleet, a nuclear-powered submarine fleet, and aerial refueling tankers, will be participating in the drills dubbed “Key Resolve/Foal Eagle.” On the Korean side, the troop numbers will be greater by half than usual at 290,000 personnel, including special operations forces, Army corps in the front-line areas, and Army divisions in the rear areas. (Chosun Ilbo, “Korea-U.S. Drills to Be Biggest in History,” February 19, 2016) South Korea and the United States Marines Corps will intensify their joint amphibious drill in March, a South Korean military official told Yonhap February 21. The two Marines will strengthen their inland ground operations, which are conducted after landing in an amphibious vehicle. The two allies will try to boost their capability to infiltrate deep into North Korean territory and destroy the North’s key facilities, such as its nuclear and missile test sites, the official said. The two countries will double the period of the exercise and widen the area covered from last year. The drill will involve some 10,000 South Korean sailors and 7,000 U.S. ones, the largest scale since the drill, known as Ssangyong, was launched in 2012. (Yonhap, “S. Korea, U.S. Marines to Intensify Amphibious Attack,” February 21, 2016)

Concerns and skepticism persist over Seoul’s policy direction and future cross-border relations since President Park Geun-hye broke a taboo by warning of “regime collapse” in North Korea during her parliamentary address two days ago. The speech heralded a sweeping shift from her much-trumpeted trustpolitik. Having singled out “pressure” as the centerpiece of this year’s North Korea policy, Seoul is now expected to further toughen its line, with the door for talks likely to stay shut. But the abrupt turnaround sparked criticism that without a well-thought-out strategy and detailed action plans, as well as close cooperation with key regional partners, it may backfire on Seoul and raise the chances of another major provocation, including limited attacks on South Korea. “Pressure is mostly intended to make Kim realize that his parallel pursuit of nuclear and economic development is not working, and bring him back to the negotiating table. But if the dialogue part is missing, it will be very hard to convince the international community,” a diplomatic source said. While Pyongyang deserves punishment for the latest nuclear and missile tests, such a hard-line approach would firm up the backing by Russia and China of the Kim regime, said Koh Yu-hwan, a North Korean studies professor at Dongguk University in Seoul. Another source of concern is what the Unification Ministry called an “inevitable” severance of humanitarian assistance in addition to private-level exchanges. This represented a major reversal in the administration’s long-held principles toward humanitarian aid, as well as Park’s own vow during the speech “never to face away” from the dire livelihoods of the rank-and-file North Koreans. “The president appears to have decided that she will break its nuclear ambitions and make a regime change happen through omnidirectional pressure on the North, but whether it will prove effective is a different matter,” Koh said. “Given the deepening mutual mistrust, it would be extremely difficult to redefine inter-Korean ties throughout her remaining presidency, and a local provocation and armed clash cannot be ruled out, unless the sides manage to hold meaningful talks such as for a China-mediated exchange of a nuclear moratorium and a peace treaty, which is no less easy.” Though the State Department yesterday expressed the U.S.’ support for Park’s “principled and firm approach,” spokesman Mark Toner said strategic patience is a “really big-picture foreign policy concept” and “valid approach in some cases.” “I think there’s also a realization given the past actions, and these are being pursued not only bilaterally or unilaterally, rather, but also within the Security Council, of the need for additional actions on North Korea,” he said at a news briefing. In his own parliamentary address Thursday, Ahn Cheol-soo, co-head of the minor opposition People’s Party, lashed out at the burst of the “regime collapse” discourse among not just the president and ruling party but also some from the opposition. “This does not help to tackle our security worries or bring peace and stability to the peninsula, or even a unification,” Ahn said. “The people know that a sudden change and unification could be a disaster, not a bonanza. What we need is a practical approach instead of an ideological one,” he added, referring to Park’s 2014 drive portraying unification as a “bonanza” for all Koreans. Kim Chong-in, interim chairman of the main opposition The Minjoo Party of Korea, who formerly was an economic adviser to Park, has also said in a media interview that the president’s argument that South Korean cash given to the Kaesong industrial park has been used to fund the North’s nuclear and missile programs was “incomprehensible.” He called for the administration to provide evidence and reasonable logic behind its decision to shutter the project. (Shin Hyon-hee, “Park’s Sudden Shift on N.K. Raises Doubts,” Korea Herald, February 18, 2016)

The Dawnlight, a steel-hulled bulk carrier outfitted with large gray cranes, looks no different from the many other container ships that ply East Asia’s busy shipping lanes, heading in and out of the bustling port of Singapore. But the Dawnlight is not just any container ship: It’s a ship that has been suspected of illegal dealings with North Korea. It was blacklisted by the United States last year because it was owned by a Singaporean company alleged to have helped Pyongyang with its weapons program, and then sold two months later, according to the company. The ship continues to shuttle between Singapore and the Korean Peninsula, with occasional diversions to China, according to data reviewed by the Washington Post. The Dawnlight has traveled to the peninsula nine times over the past 31 / 2 months, the data shows. Its ultimate destinations were unclear, though, because even on trips when the crew logged a North Korean port as its goal, the radar and satellite data examined by The Post showed it appearing to turn around off the coast of South Korea and make its way back without having called at a port. The Dawnlight’s previous owners insist the ship has carried only commercial cargo. The new, Hong Kong-based owner could not be contacted. While international sanctions against North Korea prohibit trade involving certain goods, such as those that could be used in conventional or nuclear weapons programs, general commercial trade is permitted. And with its nascent market economy, the country has more reason than ever to do business abroad. But inspection regimes in the region’s busy ports are selective, making it hard to determine what is being shipped to North Korea. Expanded U.S. sanctions that President Obama signed into law today don’t take this step but require the administration to report on foreign seaports and airports with “deficient” inspections of vessels originating from North Korea. “Doing this wouldn’t just crack down on North Korea, it would also be for our own protection,” said Chun Yung-woo, national security adviser in the last South Korean administration, talking about Seoul’s actions. “Ships are the best way North Korea has for delivering nuclear weapons.” But the difficulty of monitoring the Dawnlight underlines the limits of international sanctions. The ship could be operating entirely legitimately. But the questions remain: What is the Dawnlight carrying? Where is it going? And who even owns it? China, which shares a long land border North Korea, is by far its largest trading partner. But most of the goods heading to North Korea by sea come through Southeast Asian transshipment hubs. Singapore, one of the biggest, relies on speed and efficiency to maintain its competitive edge. Cargo lists are not publicly available, and inspections are generally conducted only when there is intelligence to suggest a breach of international sanctions. “In Southeast Asia, it’s very hard to see what’s going on,” said a former Western diplomat who has dealt with North Korea for years and who spoke on the condition of anonymity because he works in a related field. He described the implementation of sanctions as “patchy.” “Are they turning a blind eye to things going through, or is it just too difficult to stop things?” he said. When enforcing sanctions, the Singaporeans make a clear distinction: While they will enforce multilateral orders, they will not uphold U.S. sanctions unless the targeted company has also broken local laws. “We generally ignore unilateral sanctions,” said a former Singaporean official who was involved in enforcement and spoke on the condition of anonymity to avoid jeopardizing his current work. He described periods when his office would receive daily emails from U.S. officials asking for action. “American requests come in at such a volume, we have to be very selective on how we act on them,” he said. “We have millions of containers coming through every day.” The case of the Dawnlight encapsulates the problem. The U.S. Treasury Department sanctioned Senat Shipping, a Singaporean company, and its president, Leonard Lai, in July, saying the company was working with North Korean entities that procure weapons for the regime. In the process, the Treasury Department blacklisted the Dawnlight, then owned by Senat, meaning that U.S. individuals and companies were prohibited from doing any business involving the company or the ship. Senat protested the designation, saying that all of its dealings pertained to the legal shipment of commercial commodities and that it had not had a “business relationship” with North Korea since late 2011. The company was not sanctioned by the United Nations, meaning that Senat and Lai were allowed to operate in and out of Singapore — including sending ships to North Korea. In November, the Post started monitoring the Dawnlight using data collated by MarineTraffic, a community-based, online ship-tracking service. All ships submit data through the automatic identification system, or AIS, which pings radar stations when a vessel is in range or allows detection by satellites when ships are in the right place. Tracking ships traveling to North Korea is inherently challenging, because the North does not have radar stations that feed into the international ship-tracking system and satellite coverage in that part of Asia can be spotty. Still, many vessels are routinely recorded by satellite calling at North Korean ports. Although it is against international regulations, a ship’s crew can turn off the AIS, ensuring that it will not be tracked. On some of its voyages, the Dawnlight generated extremely limited AIS data even in areas far from the Korean Peninsula with reliable radar and satellite coverage. Using the signals that were sent and logged, The Post observed the Dawnlight make nine journeys that brought it close to North Korea — from Singapore and, in one case, from Chinese ports along the Yangtze River — but never tracked it docking in North Korea. “The vessel may very well have gone into a North Korean port, but because we don’t have any antennas in the vicinity, for obvious reasons we have no idea what’s going on there with that ship,” Argyris Stasinakis, a partner at MarineTraffic, said of one of those journeys. On its latest trip, the Dawnlight sailed to Busan, at the southern edge of the Korean Peninsula, before turning around February 14 and backtracking without calling at a port, according to AIS data. Its original destination, as declared by the crew via the AIS, was the Japanese port of Chiba, near Tokyo. But on the morning of the 12th it had changed its destination and was at Jingjiang, a Chinese port on the Yangtze. The Post approached Senat and Lai, who authorized his attorney to respond to questions. The attorney, Thong Chee Kun, said Senat never intended to be, and never was, involved in any illegal activities. Asked about the ship’s journeys to the Korean Peninsula and whether it had gone to North Korea, Thong said that the Dawnlight had been sold in September. He produced a notarized bill of sale signed by Lai and dated September 21, showing that the Mongolian-flagged Dawnlight was sold to a Hong Kong-based shipping company called Bene Star for $2.2 million. Thong also supplied a certificate of deletion from the Mongolia Ship Register dated Aug. 26, 34 days after Senat was sanctioned by the United States, to show that Dawnlight was no longer sailing under a Mongolian flag. “Since the sale, our clients have no knowledge of the routes it has sailed to, and they are not kept informed of Dawnlight’s operations,” Thong said. When the Dawnlight was last subject to a spot inspection — at the port of Vanino in Russia’s Far East at the end of October — it was still sailing under a Mongolian flag, according to the Tokyo MOU, the organization that monitors ports in Asia. Even today, international shipping registries and the Tokyo MOU show the Dawnlight as being owned by Senat and registered in Mongolia, and a U.S. Treasury Department spokeswoman said the vessel remains covered by last year’s sanctions. The department had not been informed that Senat had sold the ship. Thong said the Dawnlight may still be listed as Senat’s property because the new owner has not registered the vessel under a flag. Efforts to locate Bene Star were not successful. The company has no website and, although it is registered in Hong Kong, there is no phone number listed with its registration and no entry for it in Hong Kong telephone directories. The Post attempted to contact Bene Star using an email address and a phone number in the Chinese port city of Dalian supplied by Thong. There was no response to repeated emails, and the phone number did not work. Asked why the registries do not bear out the claim of a sale, Thong said Senat would be “taking the necessary steps to request an accurate listing of the information in the relevant databases.” The Post also tried to ask North Korea’s representatives in Singapore whether its shipping companies had links with Senat, as the U.S. Treasury Department claimed. But the lights were off at the North Korean Embassy’s registered office in the run-down Golden Mile complex, and a neighbor said he had not seen anyone there in at least a month. For Singapore, which has strong ties with the United States, monitoring North Korean shipping activity presents a challenge, and the government acknowledges the inherent tension between speed and vigilance. “It’s a delicate balance and one that we want to maintain without choking off legitimate trade or compromising on our counterproliferation efforts,” said one official, speaking on the Singapore government’s customary condition of anonymity. Recent actions underscore the tough approach that Singapore takes toward middlemen acting for North Korea, he said, referring to the prosecution of Chinpo Shipping, which was found guilty in December of transferring money on behalf of Ocean Maritime Management, a North Korean shipping company sanctioned by both the United States and the United Nations, so that an Ocean Maritime ship could pass through the Panama Canal. The ship, called the Chong Chon Gang, was intercepted in 2013 on its way from Cuba to North Korea. On board, under 10,000 tons of sugar, were two Soviet-era MiG fighter jets and parts for many more, surface-to-air missile launchers, and antitank rockets. This is the same case that ensnared Senat: It had previously chartered the Chong Chon Gang, although it was not involved with this journey. The Treasury Department sanctioned Senat because of its previous dealings with Ocean Maritime Management, effectively making it guilty by association. “North Koreans or any other country thinking of using Singapore or Singapore companies for illicit activities in contravention of U.N. sanctions or resolutions will know that Singapore is a no-go zone,” the Singaporean official said. “The outcome of the Chinpo case has good signaling and deterrent effect.” But as U.S. and U.N. officials formulate a new round of sanctions, diplomats say, it is worth bearing in mind the priorities of countries in the region. “You often hear the view in Southeast Asia that the more trade and the more economic linkages that are done, the better,” said Euan Graham, a former diplomat who was stationed at the British Embassy in Pyongyang and is now at the Lowy Institute in Sydney. “That probably plays some part as well in the resistance to putting sanctions further up the priority list.” (Anna Fifield, “The Voyages of the Dawnlight: Where Is It Heading? And What Is It Carrying?” Washington Post, February 18, 2016)


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Japan implemented new sanctions against North Korea in response to its recent nuclear test and rocket launch, though the government still said Tokyo is willing to continue dialogue with Pyongyang to address the abductions of Japanese nationals decades ago. The Cabinet of Prime Minister Abe Shinzo approved the punitive measures, including the ban on entry into Japan by all North Korean-registered ships as well as by third-country ships that visited ports in North Korea, effective the same day. Japan will also impose in principle a ban on remittances to North Korea that will be put into effect as early as next week after the government notifies financial institutions, government sources said. (Kyodo, “Japan Implements New Sanctions on N. Korea,” February 19, 2016)

A lawmaker here claimed North Korean leader Kim Jong-un has ordered more cyberattacks against South Korea. Citing information from the National Intelligence Service, Lee Cheol-woo of the ruling Saenuri Party told an emergency security meeting of government and ruling party officials the North could also use poison or abduct South Korean citizens as part of what he described as a “terror” campaign. “The North can inflict damage on anti-North Korean activists, defectors and government officials here,” Lee later told reporters. Cheong Wa Dae in an emergency briefing on this afternoon confirmed the intelligence. Chief presidential secretary for public affairs Kim Sung-woo said, “The chance of a North Korean terror attack is greater than ever.” But neither Cheong Wa Dae nor the National Intelligence Service offered concrete evidence pointing to an impending North Korean terror attack. Intelligence officials claimed that would compromise South Korea’s ability to deal with such an attack. Skeptics say the government is using fear tactics to pressure lawmakers to swiftly ratify an anti-terrorism bill that has been stuck in parliament since 2001. A government official said, “We have identified multiple signs of North Korea gathering related information via hacking in order to find suitable targets for cyberattacks.”

The NIS warned that government agencies, South Korean media that are critical of the North and financial institutions could become targets. “It could target public facilities and key infrastructure, including subways, shopping malls and power stations,” Lee claimed. Meanwhile, Prime Minister Hwang Kyo-ahn said at a National Assembly hearing that the government has no legal means to punish or block a known terrorist who has entered Korea. (Chosun Ilbo, “N. Korea ‘Preparing Terror Attacks,’” February 19, 2016) South Korea is bracing for any possible terror attacks from North Korea, an official said. “The presidential office of national security is thoroughly in control of every situation related to terror,” presidential spokesman Jeong Yeon-guk told reporters. Still, he declined to comment on whether National Security Adviser Kim Kwan-jin or other South Korean officials are included on North Korea’s alleged hit list. South Korea believes that North Korean leader Kim Jong-un has ordered intensified preparations for terror attacks on South Korea, Kim Sung-woo, chief presidential press secretary, told reporters yesterday. Police said earlier this week that North Korean hackers sent massive amounts of spam emails to South Korean public organizations last month, the latest in a series of cyberattacks against the South in recent years. Lee Chul-woo, a lawmaker of the ruling Saenuri Party, said on local radio that North Korea could launch a cyberattack in March or April, citing the North’s track record of waging such attacks against South Korea soon after its nuclear tests. North Korea launched a cyberattack against South Korea in July 2009, two months after its second nuclear test. It also hacked South Korean media organizations in March 2013, a month after its third nuclear test. Also today, presidential chief of staff Lee Byung-kee met with the parliamentary speaker and leaders of the ruling and opposition parties at the National Assembly to persuade them to pass an anti-terrorism bill. The rare visit is the latest move in the push by the presidential office to win parliamentary blessing for a bill meant to better protect the lives of South Koreans from possible terror attacks. (Yonhap, “S. Korea Braces for Possible Terror Attacks: Official,” February 19, 2016) Following the latest intelligence assessment that North Korea is planning terrorist attacks against the South, security measures to protect high-value targets including influential defectors have been beefed up. The National Police Agency has reinforced the security detail for former North Korean diplomat Ko Young-hwan, vice president of the Institute for National Security Strategy of the National Intelligence Service (NIS). He was put under the highest level of monitoring, as the intelligence community obtained a death threat from the North. Ko served in the North’s Foreign Ministry from 1978 to 1991. He defected from his post as the first secretary of the North Korean Embassy in the Republic of Congo in 1991. “I was told by the police that they had obtained specific threats,” Ko told Yonhap. “I was normally guarded by two agents, but the number has increased to eight.” The police also improved security measures for Park Sang-hak, a North Korean defector currently leading the campaign to send anti-Pyongyang leaflets across the border using balloons. The North has previously assassinated a high-profile defector in the South. Yi Han-yong, nephew of the late North Korean leader Kim Jong-il’s mistress Song Hye-rim, defected to the South in 1982 while studying in Switzerland. He was shot in February 1997 by two assailants suspected of being agents from North Korean special forces. He died in a hospital later that month. The NIS informed the government and the ruling party yesterday that North Korean leader Kim Jong-un had ordered the country’s intelligence agencies to prepare for terror attacks against the South. In addition to threats on cyberattacks and attacks on public facilities, assassination and kidnapping of high-value targets were also feared. JoongAng Ilbo reported today that the North had created a list of terrorism targets, including top security officials of the Park Geun-hye administration. The information was revealed at yesterday’s intelligence briefing by the NIS. Kim Kwan-jin, head of the Blue House National Security Office, and foreign, defense and unification ministers were included on the North’s list of targets, sources who attended the meeting told JoongAng Ilbo, quoting the intelligence authority’s statement. Citing the latest terror threats from the North, top presidential secretaries on Friday renewed their pressure on the National Assembly to pass the long-delayed counterterrorism bill. “It is rare for the presidential secretaries to visit the legislature to demand the passage of bills,” a presidential official said. “It seems to reflect President Park’s push for the passage.” Presidential Chief of Staff Lee Byung-kee, Senior Secretary for Policy Coordination Hyun Jung-taik and Senior Political Secretary Hyun Ki-hwan met with National Assembly Speaker Chung Ui-hwa Friday morning to urge the passage of the pending bills including the terrorism prevention bill. The presidential aides also paid visits to the leaders of the ruling Saenuri and main opposition Minjoo parties. “Lee told Chung that the counterterrorism bill must be passed as soon as possible,” a National Assembly official said. “They also requested that other pending bills including the labor reform measures and North Korea human rights act be passed before the end of the February session.” The ruling and opposition parties and the administration have repeatedly introduced counterterrorism bills to the National Assembly over the past 15 years. The first bill was proposed in 2001 in the aftermath of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks in the United States. No vote has ever taken place, however, and some lawmakers fear such a bill would yield too much power to the NIS. The latest bill, proposed by the ruling Saenuri Party, seeks to establish a counterterrorism center inside the NIS, a plan that the main opposition Minjoo Party of Korea strongly opposes. Rep. Won Yoo-chul, Saenuri Party floor leader, said that it is imperative for the opposition to cooperate to pass the terrorism bill. “Even if this bill is passed, the NIS will not go through bank accounts and wiretap to eavesdrop on conversations as we see in movies,” he said. “It needs to obtain permission in advance, and the outcome will be recorded.” Won said citizens are being left unprotected to the growing terror threats because of the Minjoo Party’s obstinate opposition. “I urge the opposition party to seriously consider this urgent situation,” he said. Won and other Saenuri leaders met with their Minjoo counterparts yesterday to negotiate voting on the counterterrorism bill, but once again failed to reach an agreement. A senior Saenuri lawmaker said Friday that the North is expected to launch cyberattacks on the South in the coming months. “The North is expected to launch cyberattacks in March or April, before its Workers’ Party convention in May,” Rep. Lee Chul-soo, the Saenuri’s chief negotiator for the National Intelligence Committee, said in a radio interview. “They have always launched cyberattacks after a nuclear test. The NIS also made the same assessment.” (Ser Myo-ja, “Police Step up Security after North Orders Terror Attacks,” JoongAng Ilbo, February 20, 2016)

KCNA: “The Park Geun Hye regime of south Korea announced on February 7 that it would negotiate with the U.S. for the deployment of THAAD in south Korea. Commenting on it, south Korean media termed the negotiations a gesture for clinching the deal, claiming that Washington and Seoul have already thrashed out such issues as deployment and operation expenses, site for deployment and offer of its infrastructure through informal contacts. This proves that deployment of THAAD sparking concerns of Asian countries has entered the phase of execution after going beyond the stage of discussion. THAAD, which Lockheed Martin developed and steadily increased its firing range with an investment of tens of millions dollars for years, is known to be capable of intercepting ultra-supersonic objects flying even in outer space. The range of the X-band radar, its main component, reportedly covers thousands of kilometers. In case THAAD is deployed in south Korea, the sphere of U.S. military domination will extend to the depth of the Asian continent only to trigger off a hot arms race for developing cutting-edge weapons and escalate military tensions in the region. The Park regime is set to play a flagship role in carrying out the brigandish and hegemonic scenario of the U.S. to neutralize with MD system the military offensive capability of rapidly developing Asian countries, notably the regional powers, and establish the sphere of political, economic and military control in the region. Calling Asian countries trade partners and the like in public, the Park regime is unhesitatingly bringing the dark clouds of a nuclear war to hang over the people in the region behind the scene, pursuant to the scenario of the U.S. It is as sly as a herd of foxes, the unpardonable common enemy of the Asian people. The south Korean regime is justifying the deployment of THAAD under the pretext of “threat from nuclear weapons and missiles” of the DPRK. But no one will be taken in by such sophism. The strong war deterrent for self-defense of the DPRK is means of justice for punishing the U.S. imperialists, the sworn enemy of the Korean nation. If the south Korean puppet regime persists in its puppy-like behavior, calculating that it can stifle the compatriots in the north and attain all other ill-advised purposes with the backing of outsiders, it will only precipitate their ruin when a merciless war of justice is launched by the service personnel and people of the DPRK against the U.S. The political and military tensions to be ratcheted by the deployment of THAAD will inevitably lead to physical conflicts and, in this case, south Korea, a nuclear outpost of the U.S. for realizing its strategy for dominating the Asia-Pacific, will become a primary target of the neighboring countries. In a word, the deployment of THAAD will only precipitate the self-destruction of the south Korean puppet regime. The Park regime would be well advised to face up to the reality and stop running riot.” (KCNA, “KCNA Commentary Snipes at Projected U.S. THAAD Deployment in S, Korea,” February 19, 2016)

Jeffrey Lewis: “The rocket that put the satellite in orbit had a new name written on it — Kwangmyeongseong or “Shining Star” — but it looked awfully familiar. Basically, it’s the same rocket that North Korea launched in 2006, 2009, and twice in 2012. These rockets have had various names, but in the United States we call them the same thing — the Taepodong-2. (Taepo is the name of a small village, or dong, near the missile test site where it was first observed.) And while North Korea says this rocket series is for putting satellites in orbit, the United States has long asserted that the Taepodong-2 is a de facto intercontinental-range ballistic missile (ICBM). …It might seem that deploying missile defenses is a sensible response to a missile launch, although if you know much about either PAC-3 or THAAD you’ll be scratching your head. After all, THAAD and PAC-3 are what is known as terminal defense systems — they defend against short- and medium-range ballistic missiles as they come back down to Earth. They have no capability to defend against a Taepodong-2. Space launches, of course, don’t come back down. THAAD and PAC-3 would have fire at the missile as it going up, during its boost phase, a capability that neither possesses. And, of course, if North Korean were to use the Taepodong-2 as an ICBM it would come back down, as the name suggests, on another continent (North America) not in South Korea or Japan. Nuclear warheads delivered by ICBMs enter the atmosphere at very high speeds, leaving THAAD and PAC-3 essentially helpless to defend against it. This is why the United States has invested in the Ground-based Midcourse Defense System located in Alaska, a system that has its own limitations. So, if THAAD and PAC-3 are useless against a Taepodong-2 class threat, just what the heck is going on? Governments loathe looking helpless. When North Korea stacks a long-range rocket up on a pad and starts fueling it, reporters are bound to ask politicians and experts what the United States should do. Sure, every now and again, someone gets a wild hair up his ass and suggests blowing it up. Ash Carter was asked about his 2006 proposal to use a cruise missile strike to prevent North Korea from launching a rocket and shut down the conversation. “So that was then, and now is now,” he said. Generally, what people are thinking is “We aren’t going to do anything.” But god help them if you say that out loud. So, a PAC-3 photo op in Shinjuku it is, followed by tough talk about the THAAD deployments in South Korea. If you press knowledgeable officials about the fact that these missile defenses can’t intercept this particular missile, they’ll usually give you some nonsense about shooting down any debris that might go off course. Guess what happens to any debris from a missile? It continues along its ballistic trajectory. There really isn’t much chance of fragmenting debris falling into populated areas. And, in any event, the North Koreans seem to have taken care of that for us. There are reports that they detonated the first stage to prevent nosy busybodies from recovering the debris and seeing where the North Koreans are getting help. The South Koreans have still managed to pull up bits of the rocket, but so far the haul hasn’t been as impressive as it was following the December 2012. Nor is THAAD much of a solution to North Korea’s most threatening capability — a short-range, solid-fueled missile based on Russia’s SS-21 called the KN-02 Toksa. Since 2014, North Korea has been testing an extended-range version of the missile that travels more than 120 miles. That’s a nice range if you want to rain death and destruction against Seoul, a mere 35 miles from the DMZ. Since the Toksa is solid-fueled, the missile is a permanent state of launch readiness, unlike North Korea’s liquid-fueled rockets, which must be fueled before launch. The Toksa (or SS-21/KN-02, if you are trying to keep track) would actually fly under the THAAD engagement zone. In the 1990s, the Department of Defense studied theater missile defense architectures in the Asia-Pacific, specifically considering four THAAD batteries in South Korea. While those batteries might defend much of South Korea against medium-range ballistic missiles like the Nodong, defending against short-range threats requires different missile defense interceptors more like Israel’s Iron Dome system. (There is a second system called David’s Sling that would probably be just right.) The United States, South Korea and Japan don’t have the slightest idea what to do about North Korea’s missile programs. But the funny thing is, we already have the right weapon in the toolkit: it’s called diplomacy. Unfortunately, it’s been 16 years since the United States actually tried to do something about North Korea’s ballistic missile program. Actually, it wasn’t just us. The first people to try diplomacy to constrain North Korea’s missile programs were the Israelis. Israel’s Foreign Ministry was alarmed that North Korea was selling missiles to neighboring states like Iran. So someone had the inspired idea to make the North Koreans a better offer. The negotiations didn’t get very far, but the Israelis proposed various forms of economic assistance reported at a hard-to-believe $1 billion, including investments in a North Korean gold mine. Ultimately, Mossad got wind of the plan and sent its own delegation to Pyongyang to torpedo it. Apparently competing delegations from the Israeli Foreign Ministry and Mossad ran into each other when they took the same flight out of Pyongyang. (The scene is fictionalized in James Church’s Bamboo and Blood.) There was a minor scandal back home, but the real problem was the United States found out about it. Ultimately, the United States leaned on Israel to knock it off. After all, buying out the North Koreans might have helped Israel’s situation, but it would have left North Korea armed to the teeth with missiles, and a billion bucks to boot. The United States wanted a total elimination of the North’s missile programs, a sentiment shared by South Korea and Japan — at which most of the missiles were pointed. Still, there was a beautifully unsentimental quality to how the Israelis approached the situation. Still, the Clinton administration thought it could do better. Over the course of the last few years of his presidency, Clinton sought an agreement in which North Korea would give up its long-range missile programs in exchange for assistance and free launches on foreign rockets. These negotiations involved a cast of characters, some of whom, like Wendy Sherman, would a decade and a half later play major roles in negotiating the Iran deal. This was the process that led, ultimately, to Secretary of State Madeline Albright visiting North Korea — still the highest ranking official to visit the Hermit Kingdom. But Clinton ran out of time. It is hard to say whether the United States and North Korea were close to a deal in 2000. On one hand, the sides were much nearer to an agreement than I think most people realize. The North Koreans were saying, behind the scenes, that if Clinton would just get on a plane to Pyongyang, everything could be worked out. But the North Koreans were also taking a hard line on missiles that were already deployed. In the end, I think Clinton was right to spend his remaining days in Northern Ireland not North Korea — although the Bush administration made a fateful error stepping back from the negotiations to conduct a policy review. When Clinton left office, North Korea was observing a moratorium on launches of long-range missiles of any kind. That moratorium that held for a few years, but it ultimately fell victim to the collapse of the Agreed Framework. The moratorium ended with fireworks on July 4, 2006, when North Korea launched a number of missiles — including a Taepodong-2. The Bush administration made a half-hearted attempt to resume talks with North Korea over its nuclear programs, but never really talked about missiles. The Obama administration hasn’t made much of an effort to do anything about Pyongyang’s missiles either. There was the ill-fated “Leap Day Deal” in 2012, when North Korea agreed to meet a series of preconditions for disarmament talks to resume. One of those preconditions was that North Korea agree not to test long-range missiles “of any kind” but U.S. diplomats were asleep at the switch. They didn’t even notice that the North Korean version of the deal omitted the phrase “of any kind” — which was a kind of diplomatic allusion to space launches — and were caught totally flat-footed when the DPRK announced that it would celebrate the centenary of Kim Il Sung’s birth in April 2012 with a space launch. That launch failed, but the Leap Day Deal was dead. There was something different about what happened in 2012 — and not just that North Korea tried again later that year and succeeded. During the 1990s, the North Koreans were offering to trade away a program that did not exist in exchange for other things. In 2012, as I wrote at Foreign Policy, U.S. diplomats had fundamentally misunderstood that North Korea was no longer interested in trading away its space program. Space launches are now part of the story that the North Korean government tells its citizens. They weren’t offering to come back to talks to give away their space program. They were offering to come back to talks so we might be more likely to let them keep it. That’s a big change. So here is an unpopular opinion: How about we strike a deal in which the North Koreans get to keep their space launch program in exchange for a series of constraints? Oh, I know, you’ll get howls from the usual quarters about how we are legitimizing North Korea’s missile programs. I hate that argument. I don’t even know what that means. Sure, we won’t be able to send them sternly worded letters complaining about their active missile programs. It will be a real blow to the people who make State Department stationary. But no one thinks the latest round of sanctions means North Korea will give up its rockets. In the real world, North Korea and Iran have very active missile programs. You don’t have to like it, but judging by the enormous investment in Pyongyang’s new satellite control and launch centers, the North Koreans don’t seem to be in a mood for bargaining away the space program. What might we realistically achieve? First, we might get North Korea to agree to only “peaceful” space launches. There isn’t much difference, but we might seek to prevent North Korea from testing its road-mobile KN-08 ICBM and stop development of new solid-fueled missiles. Everyone will hate this recognition, but in 10 years I am pretty sure I will be emailing this column around reminding people back when I said we should live with the liquid-fueled rocket program to head off the solid-fueled one. (This is just a future “I told you so” paragraph.) Second, and sort of pursuant to the first point, North Korea might agree not to test rockets in a ballistic missile mode, not to test reentry vehicles, and not to test missile defense penetration aids. North Korea can probably build crude casings for its nuclear warheads that can survive the heat of reentering the earth’s atmosphere, but these would have real limitations. They would probably be inaccurate and might slow down when reentering the atmosphere. With a little luck, a terminal defense like THAAD or PAC-3 might have a shot at them. If North Korea can develop much better reentry vehicles and penetration aids to defeat missile defenses, our task gets harder. And perhaps most importantly, North Korea is likely to sell such technologies to other countries like Iran. Third, North Koreans would have to abide by guidelines that bar the export of missiles and missile-related technologies. (I am not suggesting we let North Korea in the Missile Technology Control Regime that publishes guidelines for missile-related exports, but rather that we insist they adhere to the guidelines from outside, as China does.) I have my doubts about whether North Korea would really agree to such a thing, but I wouldn’t mind trying to slow down the bustling missile trade between Iran and North Korea. Frankly, I think North Korea will probably cheat on such a deal, but I am not sure it matters. I am always for kicking the can down the road. If we can slow North Korea’s development of various missile capabilities, that would be worth the sort of things we usually offer in negotiations — a high-level meeting or two, nutritional assistance, limited forms of sanctions relief, and suitcases full of South Korean money. There is a lot I would not put on the table — starting with missile defenses since a primary goal would be trying to make the North Korean program more susceptible to the defenses we have. North Korea is going to be launching a lot of rockets in the next few years. It might be time to do the unthinkable and approach the situation with something short of maximalist demands for total surrender. I realize this is a very unpopular sentiment. Letting North Korea launch a rocket into space without demarching them is unthinkable. The North Koreans might even think it a bit rude, like forgetting to send a Christmas card or thank-you notes after a wedding. But not demarching North Korea doesn’t really amount to a policy change because no one thinks another round of sanctions is going to change Pyongyang’s play. A tough statement from the Security Council is, in fact, doing nothing. Which is why it is easy. It doesn’t require admitting that our policy has failed or making painful compromises. In a strange way, it serves our short-term interests to wail ineffectually at each North Korea launches. But it is our long-term interests that I worry about. If we continue to do nothing, North Korea will continue to test nuclear weapons and long-range ballistic missiles. This story will end with a North Korean thermonuclear weapon on an ICBM — pointed at Los Angeles. And all the THAAD batteries in South Korea won’t matter one bit.” (Jeffrey Lewis, “Are You Scared about North Korea’s Thermonuclear ICBM? Foreign Policy, February 19, 2016)


2/20/16:
The South Korean military confirmed that the North conducted a firing drill on its western coast after an explosive sound was heard near the northernmost frontline island of Baengnyeong, causing unease among residents. A military official said “several artillery rounds” were likely fired at around 7:20 a.m. from the North’s shore as part of a drill. An announcement was made immediately to the island’s residents. The official added that none of the rounds crossed the Northern Limit Line (NLL), a maritime border in the Yellow Sea, and that the military will continue to closely monitor the North. Residents were requested to remain alert for a possible evacuation. (Kwon Ji-youn, “North Korea Conducts Firing Drill near Front-Line Island,” Chosun Ilbo, February 20, 2016)


2/21/16:
The United States rejected a North Korean proposal to discuss a peace treaty to formally end the Korean War because it did not address denuclearization on the peninsula, the State Department said. State Department spokesman John Kirby made the comment in response to a Wall Street Journal report that the White House secretly agreed to peace talks just before Pyongyang’s latest nuclear bomb test. The newspaper, citing U.S. officials familiar with the events, said the Obama administration dropped its condition that Pyongyang take steps to curtail its nuclear arsenal before any peace talks take place, instead calling for North Korea’s atomic weapons program to be just one part of the discussion. Pyongyang declined the proposal, and its January 6 nuclear test ended the diplomatic plans, the newspaper reported. “‎To be clear, it was the North Koreans who proposed discussing a peace treaty,” Kirby said in an emailed statement. “We carefully considered their proposal, and made clear that denuclearization had to be part of any such discussion. The North rejected our response,” he said. “Our response to the NK proposal was consistent with our longstanding focus on denuclearization.” (Reuters, “U.S. Rejected Peace Talks before Last Nuclear Test,” February 21, 2016) Days before North Korea’s latest nuclear-bomb test, the Obama administration secretly agreed to talks to try to formally end the Korean War, dropping a longstanding condition that Pyongyang first take steps to curtail its nuclear arsenal. [??] Instead the U.S. called for North Korea’s atomic-weapons program to be simply part of the talks. Pyongyang declined the counter-proposal, according to U.S. officials familiar with the events. Its nuclear test on January 6 ended the diplomatic gambit. The episode, in an exchange at the United Nations, was one of several unsuccessful attempts that American officials say they made to discuss denuclearization with North Korea during President Barack Obama’s second term while also negotiating with Iran over its nuclear program. Obama has pointed to the Iran deal to signal to North Korea that he is open to a similar track with the regime of Kim Jong Un. But the White House sees North Korea as far more opaque and uncooperative. The latest fruitless exchanges typified diplomacy between the U.S. and Pyongyang in recent years. “For North Korea, winning a peace treaty is the center of the U.S. relationship,” said Go Myung-hyun, an expert on North Korea at the Asan Institute for Policy Studies, a Seoul-based think tank. “It feels nuclear development gives it a bigger edge to do so.” The new U.S. sanctions and Washington’s efforts to raise pressure on China, Pyongyang’s main political and economic ally, will provide a test of whether the deadlock can be broken. The U.S. law goes further than previous efforts to block the regime’s sources of funds for its leadership and weapons program, including by extending a blacklist to companies, primarily Chinese ones that do business with North Korea. Existing sanctions targeted North Korean individuals and entities with little presence outside the country. Advocates of the law, many of whom cite the example of Iran, say more pressure was needed to deter North Korea. The law will force Kim to “make a choice between coming back to the table and ending his nuclear-weapons program or to cut off the funding for that program and for his regime,” House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Rep. Ed Royce, a California Republican, said recently. Skeptics, including those within the Obama administration, say North Korea is different from Iran because its decades of isolation limits the power of sanctions. Some say Pyongyang is increasingly using domestic technology in its weapons program and that many of the blacklisted Chinese companies are small with few other international dealings. “It’s not like Iran where they have a lot of vulnerability because there’s a lot of commercial activity,” a senior U.S. official said. The sanctions “will have an effect, but the real lifeline is the Chinese assistance.” While Obama felt emboldened by his success in reaching a nuclear deal last year with Iran, he has largely tried to use any momentum from that diplomatic effort to push for a political resolution to the conflict in Syria, rather than shift focus to North Korea. Iran and North Korea “are both countries that have a long history of antagonism towards the United States, but we were prepared to have a serious conversation with the Iranians once they showed that they were serious about the possibility of giving up the pursuit of nuclear weapons,” Obama said last October. But he added, “there’s been no indication on the part of the North Koreans, as there was with the Iranians, that they could foresee a future in which they didn’t possess or were not pursuing nuclear weapons. “ North Korea’s U.N. mission didn’t respond to a request for comment. Its state media agency wrote this month of the U.S.’s prioritization of nuclear talks: “This is just like a guilty party filing suit first.” The U.S.-South Korean missile-shield talks “further strengthens arguments of those in China who argue North Korea is a strategic liability,” said L. Gordon Flake, head of the Perth US-Asia Centre at the University of Western Australia. “It’s becoming more difficult for China to give North Korea leeway.” For the U.S., coordination with China is important to pass new U.N. sanctions against North Korea. Some American officials said in the past week that China agreed to cooperate. “I think it unlikely that China wants to be seen by the international community as the protector of North Korea, given its recent outrageous behavior in violation of international law and U.N. Security Council resolution,” Susan Rice, Obama’s national security adviser, said last week. A Chinese vice foreign minister has said Beijing will support a “new, powerful” U.N. resolution, though added that negotiations are key to fixing the problem. But any external pressure faces the challenge of North Korea’s unwillingness to yield its nuclear weapons, especially after Pyongyang revised its constitution in 2012 to declare itself a nuclear-armed state. “Submitting to foreign demands to denuclearize could mean delegitimization and destabilization for the regime,” said Nicholas Eberstadt, a North Korea expert at the American Enterprise Institute, a Washington, D.C.-based think tank. (Alastair Gale and Carol Lee, “U.S. Agreed to North Korea Peace Talks before Latest Nuclear Test,” Wall Street Journal, February 21, 2016) North Korea quietly reached out to U.S. officials through the United Nations in New York last fall to propose formal peace talks on ending the Korean War, a response to President Barack Obama’s comments that the U.S. was willing to engage Pyongyang as it has with other rogue regimes, senior U.S. officials told CNN. That effort fell short, the officials said, with the North Koreans refusing to include their nuclear program in any negotiations as the U.S. required and soon after testing a nuclear weapon. But it represented a new step from the Obama administration as it tried to lure the hermetic country out of its isolation and extend its track record of successful negotiations with nations long at odds with the United States, such as Iran and Cuba. The U.S. told North Korea it was willing to discuss a formal peace to replace the 63-year-old armistice that ended hostilities after the Korean War, but only if efforts to curb Pyongyang’s nuclear program were part of the discussions. In doing so, the administration dropped a longstanding demand that North Korea take steps toward “denuclearization” before talks on a formal peace treaty began. Still, the North Koreans refused to allow the nuclear issue to be part of any talks. (Elise Labott and Nicole Gaouette, “North Korea offered — Then Rebuffed — Talks with U.S.,” February 22, 2016) “The peace treaty negotiations is not just an issue between the United States and North Korea, but needs to be led by South Korea,” Jeong Joon-hee, a spokesman for the South Korean Ministry of Unification, said in a briefing February 22. An official from South Korea’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs added, “Our government has made efforts to coordinate between the other six-party nations to draw North Korea to the table before its fourth nuclear test. The five party nations already agree that if North Korea shows concrete signs toward denuclearization, it will be able to resume six-party talks.” (Sarah Kim, “Denuclearization Issue Killed Korea Peace Talks,” JoongAng Ilbo, February 22, 2016)

DPRK Foreign Ministry spokesman’s statement: “The U.S. is getting evermore frantic with the anti-DPRK campaign obsessed with inveterate hostility toward it. “2016 North Korea Sanctions Enforcement Act” passed through the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives and it took effect after Obama signed it on February 18. The act is peppered with rubbish-like provisions calling for obstructing the normal economic and trading activities of the DPRK while intensifying psychological warfare for internal destabilization and plot-breeding over “human rights issue.” The U.S. scenario to hold in check the DPRK’s implementation of the line of simultaneously developing the two fronts through despicable sanctions and psychological warfare is as foolish as trying to get the sun eclipsed by palms. Sanctions do not work on the DPRK as it has been subject to the U.S. harsh sanctions more than half a century. The DPRK manufactured even H-bomb entirely on the basis of its self-development principle despite the sanctions. It is the unanimous view of the international community that sanctions and threats cannot help settle the issue of the Korean Peninsula but make it more complicated. The DPRK can never overlook the fact that the campaign launched by the U.S. while branding the DPRK’s just measure for self-defense as an act of disturbing peace is aimed at bringing down the socialist system in the DPRK, cradle of worthwhile life and happiness of its people. The U.S. has often repeated the assertion that sanctions are not targeting the people of the DPRK and their living but this time it openly blustered that the essence of its policy toward the DPRK is to suffocate its overall national economy and bring down its social system. This proves that the U.S. remains unchanged in its hostile policy aimed at physically eliminating the state and people of the DPRK and is going beyond the tolerance limit, far from weakening. The U.S. is working hard to use the “human rights issue” as an excuse for slapping sanctions in a sinister bid to bring down the social system of the DPRK but the harsh economic sanctions mean the worst abuse of the human rights of its people and the U.S., a kingpin of human rights abuses, is bound to be punished for them. The desperate moves of the U.S. will only harden the unshakable will of the service personnel and people of the DPRK to firmly defend the most advantageous socialist system whereby they fully enjoy their genuine human rights and to proudly build an economic giant and a highly civilized nation under the unfurled banner of the self-development-first principle. The harsher the U.S. becomes in its hostile policy, the more firmly the DPRK will stick to its line of simultaneously pushing forward economic construction and the building of nuclear force.” (KCNA, “U.S. Anti-DPRK Sanctions Denounced,” February 21, 2016)

A former security minister of North Korea has replaced the head of the North Korean military, who is presumed to have recently been executed, according to the North’s state media. Ri Myong-su, former People’s Security Minister, was referred to as “chief of the Korean People’s Army (KPA) General Staff” KCNA dispatch reporting on leader Kim Jong-un’s observation of aerial maneuvers. He was again mentioned in another dispatch the same day in which he was reported to have accompanied Kim as “chief of the KPA General Staff” to a flight drill inspection. This is the first time Ri Myong-su’s promotion was officially confirmed by KCNA. Ri had been rumored to have succeeded Ri Yong-gil, who was executed on charges of corruption and pursuing personal gains. Rodong Sinmun did not mention Ri Yong-gil in the list of officials present at an event attended by Kim Jong-un and listed Ri Myong-su in his place. Analysts suggest Ri Myong-su was promoted because of his “extensive knowledge in missile technology.” “Ri Myong-su was one of Kim Jong-il’s top three aides and is known to be well-versed in missile technology,” said Yang Moo-jin, a professor at the University of North Korean Studies in Seoul. (Yonhap, “N. Korea’s Ex-Security Minister Replaces Executed Military Chief,” February 21, 2016)

Tiny flash drives or memory storage cards could become powerful weapons to use against North Korean leader Kim Jong-un and his military regime. The idea behind the Flash Drives for Freedom campaign, led by the Human Rights Foundation (HRF) and Forum 280, is to smuggle flash drives into the isolated state in order to provide North Koreans with flash drives holding South Korean soap operas or Hollywood movies. “Outside information and knowledge will transform North Korea,” Alex Gladstein, chief strategy officer for HRF, told the Korea Times.

“According to the Seoul-based North Korea Strategy Center, only about 30 percent of North Koreans know that they are brainwashed and that the outside world is much more prosperous. Through campaigns like this, we hope to get that number closer to 50 percent or even 75 percent, and at that point, the evil Kim dictatorship will not be able to survive.” The way to participate in the campaign is simple: just ship any USB sticks to the campaign office in Palo Alto, California. According to the organizers, campaigners will then find ways to smuggle the sticks into the repressive state. Few citizens have access to computers and the Internet. However, portable video players known as Notels are becoming increasingly common, Gladstein noted. According to HRF, about 200 flash drives and $10,000 have so far been donated. (Jung Min-ho, “New Weapon against North Korea: Flash Drives,” Korea Times, February 21, 2016)


2/22/16:
KCNA: “The DPRK acceded to the agreement on the rescue of astronauts, the return of astronauts and the return of objects launched into outer space and the convention on international liability for damage caused by space objects on February 22, Juche 105 (2016), according to the decision of its government. The agreement concluded on April 22, 1968 stipulates the issue of handing over to the launch nation any astronaut, space objects and their parts as they fall or are discovered in the territorial land and waters of a signatory country and open sea. The convention concluded on March 29, 1972 undertakes a launch nation to make responsible compensation when space objects caused human or property losses on the earth surface or caused damage to a plane in flight. The DPRK’s accession to the agreement and the convention will further promote the international trust in space scientific researches and activities and make positive contributions to strengthening cooperation with other countries. (KCNA, “DPRK Accedes to Space-Related International Agreements,” February 23, 2016)

Some Chinese banks in northeastern China, including the Dandong, Liaoning Province branch of Industrial and Commercial Bank of China (ICBC), the country’s largest bank, have suspended cash deposit and transfer services for accounts owned by North Koreans since December last year. In telephone conversations with Dong-A Ilbo on February 18-19, an employee of ICBC’s Dandong branch said that the measures started in late December, adding that the bank had suspended all deposits and transfers of foreign currencies, including the Chinese yuan, in and out of those accounts. Dandong is located in a border area with North Korea. More than 70 percent of North Korea-China trade takes place in the city. A source quoted a Chinese entrepreneur in Shenyang, Liaoning Province as saying that a Chinese bank he was doing business with recently informed him that it would not take deposits in or make cash transfers from North Korean accounts. The businessman, who invested in several mines in North Korea, had paid for minerals from the mines imported to China through the bank. His North Korean partner is urging him to send money quickly, according to the source. In December 2015, before the North’s four nuclear test conducted on January 6, Beijing said it had not been informed by Pyongyang of the test. “(The bank) had never told me why it was taking such measures, but it seems that they are related with the strained relations between North Korea and China,” an employee at the bank said. One North Korea expert said that the Beijing-Pyongyang relations were worsened after the North’s Moranbong Band canceled its first overseas concert in Beijing and returned home on December 12. “After the Chinese government started some measures to put pressure on Pyongyang, it could have further expanded and strengthened the sanctions following a series of provocations such as the nuclear test and the missile launch,” the expert said. It is possible that Beijing, which participated in some of the international sanctions on the North following the third nuclear test in February 2013, has broadened the scope its sanctions on the North. Chinese companies operating plants in the border area and employing North Korean workers are restless. “If we trade minerals with North Korea and make transactions of the United Nations-designated contraband goods, our business will be hit hard by the U.S. sanctions law,” another Chinese businessman said. “Many entrepreneurs are worried because their major importers such as the U.S., Europe and South Korea will likely block imports of Chinese products manufactured by North Korean employees.” (Dong-A Ilbo, “China’s Biggest Bank Freezes N. Korean Accounts,” February 22, 2016)

Hankyore (Hani): President Park Geun-hye recently shut down the Kaesong Industrial Complex and decided to deploy THAAD missile defense in response to North Korea’s nuclear test and long-range rocket launch. In addition, she implied in a recent address to parliament that if North Korea refuses to give up its nuclear weapons, South Korea will keep pushing it until the regime collapses. What do you think about Park’s hard-line response to North Korea’s recent actions? Sigal: Now is the time for serious reconsideration of policy, not flights of fancy. Seeking the collapse of the regime is utterly unrealistic. Far from encouraging the North to stop arming, it only reinforces the North’s drive to make more and better nuclear weapons and missiles. Hani: China is objecting strongly to South Korea and the US’s plan for the THAAD deployment on the Korean peninsula. The rifts between the US and China, China and South Korea appear to be widening. Some South Koreans are concerned that the THAAD might spur an arms race in Northeast Asia. What kind of impact do you think this will have on Northeast Asia’s peace and stability? Do you think it may cause a security dilemma in this region? Sigal: THAAD has very limited anti-missile capability and can easily be offset by China‘s adding a few more missiles without triggering an arms race. China’s real concern is the tightening of the U.S. alliances in Asia, which is necessitated by missile defense. Hani: As you know, the ‘Pivot to Asia’ policy of the Obama administration has two sides, one is cooperation with China and the other is blocking China’s rise. One of the most prominent characteristics of Pivot to Asia is military cooperation among three countries, US. Japan, South Korea. Could you tell me what is the problem of trilateral military cooperation? Sigal: The pivot has no such purpose. It is not the policy of the Obama administration to block the rise of China, but to reassure its allies as China’s military capabilities increase. It continues to pursue areas of cooperation, including on North Korea policy. A serious US-China dialogue about security issues would be useful head off conflict. Hani: Can you talk a bit more about possible problems with the US-led Missile defense system. Sigal: Missile defense cannot operate without greatly intensified cooperation among the allies. That is a lot less worrisome than renewed talk of nuclear arming in Seoul and Tokyo. Hani: After three years in power, inter-Korean relations have only gotten worse under Park. Also, Obama administration has reiterated ‘strategic patience’ toward North Korea. What do you think about this? What has made two administrations push the ineffective policies? Sigal: The only realistic way to stop North Korean arming is to negotiate and that involves addressing North Korea’s security concerns, not insisting on preconditions for talks. It would entail a gradual peace process and normalization of economic relations in parallel with denuclearization and missile constraints. Sustained negotiations may not succeed, but failing to try them is inexcusable. Similarly, the only realistic way for Seoul to bring about desired change in the North, however gradually, is to sustain economic, cultural and political engagement. President Park has unfortunately been of two minds about that, with unfortunate results. The failure is due to politics in both capitals where wishful thinking has prevailed over realism. Hani: South Korea is compared to a shrimp between two whales (US and China). On the side of South Korea, what position it should take between U.S and China? Sigal: It has been the policy of all recent governments in Seoul to remain a firm ally of the United States while seeking to engage with and accommodate China where possible. That is a sound approach to South Korean security. (Yi Yong-in, “”Expert Says Waiting for North Korea’s Collapse Is ‘Utterly Unrealistic,’” Hankyore, February 22, 2016)

Tensions have increased significantly along the Demilitarized Zone since North Korea’s recent nuclear test and rocket launch, a North Korean military official told the Associated Press on Monday, adding that while he could not comment on operational details, “the reality is that it is touch and go.” Though parts of the world’s most fortified border can seem like a tourist trap, drawing throngs of camera-happy visitors on both sides every year, to the military-trained eye the Cold War-style standoff along the 257-kilometer (160-mile) DMZ — established when the 1950-53 Korean War ended in an armistice, not a peace treaty — is an incident waiting to happen. That’s now truer than ever, the North Korean officer said, as tensions are escalating between Pyongyang, Seoul and Washington. Thousands of U.S. troops are deployed in South Korea and units based around the DMZ have the motto “Be Ready to Fight Tonight.” “People come here and they think it’s like a resort. But if you know it better, you know how dangerous it is,” Lt. Col. Nam Dong Ho of the North Korean People’s Army said in Panmunjom. Nam said tensions have increased significantly since the nuclear test in January and rocket launch earlier this month. “Something could happen at any time,” he said. To stand on the North Korean side of the Demilitarized Zone is almost otherworldly. After crossing through military checkpoints and passing roadside concrete structures rigged to detonate and keep any vehicles from passing — defenses that are also common in the South — the air is peaceful and fresh, and birds can be heard chirping as they fly over a carefully manicured landscape dotted with rock monuments and meticulously maintained historical buildings. But closer to the Demarcation Line that marks the actual border, soldiers stand rigidly on guard, armed and intimidating, often just a few steps away from their South Korean counterparts. Today, the surreal feeling at the Demarcation Line was heightened by the absence of anyone — soldiers or civilians — visible on the South’s side. South Korea halted tours to its side of the DMZ the day after the nuclear test, when it also announced it would resume cross-border propaganda broadcasts, which have in the past brought strong recriminations from North Korea. The tours have gradually resumed. A popular observatory where people can catch a glimpse into the North via binoculars was set to reopen tomorrow. Along with restarting the broadcasts, South Korean President Park Geun-hye responded to the North’s nuclear test and launch by shutting down a joint industrial park in Kaesong, a city just north of the DMZ, and telling the South Korean National Assembly that if North Korean leader Kim Jong Un doesn’t change his ways his regime will surely collapse — predictably outraging the North. North Korea reacted by putting the industrial park under military control, cutting off emergency hotlines with Seoul and — through its state-run media — accusing Park of being a traitor and a “senile granny.” “I don’t even want to utter her name,” Nam said. “I’m just a soldier so I don’t know how the situation has changed. But as the Kaesong industrial zone has been totally closed by South Korea, our people and army are getting more enraged.” Nam said the broadcasts cannot be heard in Panmunjom during the day, which he suggested was because the South doesn’t want them to be heard by South Korean tourists. “But when it’s quiet, late at night, you can hear them here,” he said. Nam said he remains focused on his duties. But he added that, now that North Korea says it has an H-bomb — a claim disputed by some outside experts — the U.S. might be better advised to focus on negotiating a peace treaty to formally end the Korean War. “On the international stage, the U.S. talks about peace,” he said. “But it should not interfere in the affairs of other countries.” (Eric Talmadge, “Tensions Rising on DMZ, North Korean Officer Tells AP,” Associated Press, February 22, 2016)

A trail of money stretching from a Panamanian shipping agent to an octogenarian Singaporean to a Chinese bank provides a window on why U.S. efforts to tighten sanctions on North Korea may be harder to achieve than in the case of Iran. For decades North Korea has built networks of front companies and foreign intermediaries to channel currency in and out, circumventing attempts to isolate it over its nuclear-weapons program. Court documents and interviews with investigators, banks and prosecutors show the cornerstone of those networks is China. “Its geographic proximity, the huge trade volume, having the contacts, and having the historic relationship all contribute to making China the center point for any North Korean initiative to evade international financial sanctions,” said William Newcomb, a former member of a panel of experts assisting the United Nations’ North Korea sanctions committee. “China is a very important piece in making sure that blockages work.” Iran’s economy is about 15 times the estimated size of North Korea’s, and that country’s decades of isolation mean its economy is more self-contained. “The primary playbook for upping sanctions effectively is Iran — although that may not make practical sense here,” said Adam M. Smith, former senior adviser to the Director of the U.S. Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control and now a Washington-based lawyer with Gibson Dunn. “Such implementation would call for the U.S. — and perhaps others — to begin threatening sanctions on North Korea’s supporters and protectors.” North Korea relies on China, its biggest trading partner, for food, arms and energy. About 70 percent to 80 percent of North Korea’s foreign earnings have in the past come via China, said Kim Kwang Jin, who ran the Singapore branch of North Korea’s North East Asia Bank before defecting in 2003. “That huge trade volume means there are more people in China who are willing to cooperate with the regime,” Kim said by phone from Seoul. But China is no longer turning a blind eye to illicit North Korean activities, according to Richard Nephew, a former principal deputy coordinator for sanctions policy at the State Department until last year. “In the last 10-15 years, they actually really do care about trying to prevent some of these bad acts.” China’s Foreign Ministry and central bank didn’t respond to faxes seeking comment on what measures China is taking to stop the flow of illegal money to and from North Korea using banks and intermediaries in China. A tightening of control in China would make North Korea more dependent on the connections it has built up to do business further afield, where it risks having funds frozen in overseas accounts. To avert this, the regime uses a mix of bank accounts in the names of intermediaries who wire money at its request. One example of how those intermediaries work can be seen from Chinpo Shipping Company Ltd., a Singapore-registered ship-supplies firm set up by 82-year-old Tan Cheng Hoe, which channeled North Korean funds for years, according to court documents. Chinpo’s role came to light after a routine inspection of the Chong Chon Gang, a North Korean cargo vessel passing through the Panama Canal in July 2013. Inside the hold, hidden under 200,000 bags of sugar, were disassembled MiG-27 fighter jets, Soviet-era radar systems and munitions headed for Cuba. Inspectors also found documents detailing a $72,017 wire transfer from Chinpo to C. B. Fenton & Co., a Panama shipping agent, to pay for passage through the canal. The seizure sparked a two-year, international investigation that led to Singapore and brought the first criminal conviction for offering financial services to facilitate North Korea’s arms proliferation. Singapore District Judge Jasvender Kaur fined Chinpo S$180,000 ($128,000) in January for violating UN sanctions and remitting money without a license. Edmond Pereira, Chinpo’s lawyer, said the company is appealing the conviction and fine. Tan, a director of Chinpo, wasn’t accused of wrongdoing. Calls to Chinpo’s office were unanswered. Court documents, UN reports and interviews with lawyers on both sides show the payment for the Chong Chon Gang was the tip of the iceberg. Between 2009 and 2013, North Korea used Chinpo to funnel more than $40 million through the global financial system, even after other Asian banks blocked Chinpo’s accounts for making suspicious transfers. “It’s almost as though this was their bank account for worldwide expenditures,” said Sandy Baggett, who led the case against Chinpo as a Singapore deputy public prosecutor. Chinpo said in court documents that its staff were “acting within their scope of their responsibilities as shipping agents.” The difficulty for North Korea was avoiding the attention of U.S. regulators, who can go after foreign banks conducting dollar transactions, because almost all are routed through clearing networks in the U.S. Tan minimized scrutiny by leaving ships’ names off wire transfer forms, testifying in court that Bank of China had advised Chinpo to do so. Bank of China has denied it knew the payments were linked to Pyongyang. Bank of China officials did not respond to e-mailed requests for comment on the payments or its vetting system for suspicious payments, said Unice Liu, a consultant at Baldwin Boyle Group in Singapore which provides public relations for the bank. Chinpo’s Bank of China accounts were closed in December 2013. “I think it was just really a lack of internal anti-money laundering procedures within the bank,” said Baggett, now a consultant for Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer LLP in New York. Court papers show Bank of China was the only lender that processed Chinpo’s North Korean transactions. Other banks including Singapore’s United Overseas Bank Ltd. shut down Chinpo accounts in 2005 for attempting to carry out suspicious wire transfers. Chinpo was told the money coming in was payments from clients who used North Korea’s ships to carry cargo, according to testimonies. Those payments were sometimes as much as $500,000, an unusually large amount for a shipping-related fee, said Baggett. Baggett said that, once a year, a woman with diplomatic status would show up and ask Chinpo to withdraw as much as half a million dollars in mint banknotes. “She was stopped once leaving Singapore for China with undeclared currency,” said Baggett. “Her explanation was that she needed the cash to pay crew wages on some North Korean ships that were in China. But who knows if that’s where the money actually went?” Newcomb, the former UN sanctions investigator, said North Korea’s money largely stays abroad. Funds from sales of North Korean goods and services are held in the same offshore accounts, ready to be used to pay salaries for diplomats and officials operating overseas and to buy equipment or supplies. Money returned to North Korea is taken across the border in cash. “They build up these credits with the intermediaries and use that to trade,” said Newcomb, who is also a former U.S. Treasury official. “But if they need to bring in the cash to Pyongyang, the only way to do that is by hand.” Chinpo wasn’t the only one helping North Korea make payments. When Austrian luxury goods broker Josef Schwartz was investigated in the late 2000s for fraud and money-laundering, he reassigned his contract to buy two yachts on North Korea’s behalf to Complant International Transportation (Dalian) Co., according to Newcomb, who investigated the case. The Chinese logistics company was declared the end user for eight Mercedes cars Schwartz’s firm had purchased on behalf of a North Korean citizen, according to a 2012 report by the UN sanctions committee’s panel of experts. Complant didn’t respond to a fax requesting comment on the transaction. North Korea has also tried to expand ties with Russia, especially as it shifted to ruble-based transactions in 2014 after Russia wrote off 90 percent of its $11 billion debt, said Ludmila Zakharova, a senior researcher at the Institute of Far Eastern Studies at the Russian Academy of Sciences. “Russia is observing the sanctions regime in full,” she said, but the shift to the ruble helps “keep trade away from sanction mechanisms.” Since October 2014, transactions had been going through Regional Bank For Development, a small bank whose office moved to Moscow from Russia’s Bashkiria republic shortly before its license was revoked in 2015 as part of a nationwide review of lenders, and transactions are probably now going through China until a replacement bank can be found, Zakharova said. In the aftermath of North Korea’s fourth nuclear test last month, U.S. President Barack Obama signed into law a bill that requires him to sanction individuals, foreign governments and financial institutions involved in prohibited transactions with North Korea. But the key is China, which has resisted efforts for UN sanctions to target energy shipments to North Korea. Squeezing Kim so hard that the regime collapses could also remove the buffer between China’s northern border and the U.S. military in South Korea. David Asher, a former George W. Bush administration official who was involved in freezing North Korean assets at Banco Delta Asia, said sanctions can only be effective when China is coerced into cooperating. “The only way to cut off North Korea’s illicit cash flow is by interdicting these intermediaries,” said Asher, now an adjunct senior fellow at the Center for a New American Security. “That requires the cooperation of China, the biggest domicile for this type of integrated, clandestine, business-to-business relationship with North Korea.” (Sangwon Yoon, Sam Kim, Andrea Tan, “How North Korea Funnels Cash into the Country,” Bloomberg, February 22, 2016)

The struggle between the US and China over China’s rise and their rivalry for primacy in Asia is triggering a regional arms race, a new report concludes. According to a report released by the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI), six of the world’s 10 biggest arms importers between 2011 and 2015 were in the Asia-Pacific region: India, China, Australia, Pakistan, Vietnam and South Korea. South Korea ranked 10th on the list, accounting for 2.6% of global arms imports. Arms imports in Asia and Oceania were up sharply, by 26%, from the previous five years (2006-2010). Huge amounts of weapons were bought by countries in the region, making up 46% of global arms imports. “China continues to expand its military capabilities with imported and domestically produced weapons,” a SIPRI analyst was quoted as saying in the report. “Neighboring states such as India, Viet Nam and Japan are also significantly strengthening their military forces.” In a recently published report, the UK’s International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS) stated that last year‘s economic downturn had barely affected military spending in the Asia-Pacific region. The ratio of military spending to gross domestic product (GDP) throughout the entire Asia-Pacific region last year was 1.48%, the highest it has been since 2010, the IISS said. The IISS also pointed out that attention last year South Korea, China, Japan and Indonesia all announced plans to increase their military spending. “In order to effectively respond to the security risk factors connected with the Korean Peninsula and the possibility of a North Korea provocation, we have set the rate of increase for defense spending next year at 4.0%, which is higher than the rate at which overall expenditures will increase (3.0%),” South Korean President Park Geun-hye said during a policy speech before the National Assembly in Oct. 2015. Japan has been increasing its defense budget for four years in a row, with defense spending last year surpassing 5 trillion yen (US$44.30 billion) for the first time ever. This was described by officials at the Japan Self-Defense Forces (JSDF) at the time as creating a greater deterrence against China. In China, the situation is largely the same. While President Xi Jinping announced that the Chinese armed forces would be cut by 300,000 soldiers during his speech at a military parade in Sep. 2015 on the 70th anniversary of victory in World War II and has recently pushed through several measures designed to reorganize the military, China’s defense budget is likely to receive a substantial boost. Next month, China is expected to announce a double-digit rate of increase in this year’s defense budget at the National People’s Congress next month, Reuters reported on February 16. Since 2011, China has been steadily increasing its defense budget by 10% or 12% each year. While the US has maintained its lead in weapons exports, China is experiencing considerable growth in the area. According to SIFRI figures, the US accounted for 33% of total arms exports between 2011 and 2015, leaving Russia, the second biggest arms exporters at 25%, in the dust. With Russian exports slipping for two years in a row because of the sanctions from the West that followed conflict in Ukraine, the US arms industry appears to be enjoying a boom. “The USA has sold or donated major arms to at least 96 states in the past five years, and the US arms industry has large outstanding export orders, including for a total of 611 F-35 combat aircraft to 9 states,” SIPRI said. China accounted for 5.9% of total arms exports, edging out France, Germany and the UK to take third place on the list. (Kim Oi-hyun, “Reports Point to a New Arms Race Breaking the Asia Pacific,” Hankyore, February 23, 2016)


2/23/16:
KPA Supreme Command “crucial statement: “The U.S. imperialists and the south Korean puppet forces are making desperate efforts after being taken aback by the first successful H-bomb test of Juche Korea and its successful launch of earth observation satellite Kwangmyongsong-4. As the hysteric farce for adopting resolutions on “sanctions” at the UN, madcap military moves for stifling the DPRK with all type nuclear weapons and all unprecedented “options” against the DPRK could not break the will of the DPRK, the U.S. and the south Korean puppet forces have now turned to their last gambling. That is the “collapse of social system” through “beheading operation” targeting the supreme headquarters of the DPRK. The U.S. imperialist aggression forces’ nuclear-powered submarine North Carolina has already entered Pusan Port, F-22A Stealth fighter-bombers have been deployed in the Osan air force base and special operation troops of the U.S. imperialist aggressor forces are finding their way to south Korea one after another to get involved in the operation. The first special warfare corps of the U.S. Army, 75th commando regiment, special commando regiment of the U.S. marines, 720th special tactics corps of the U.S. air force, special warfare team Seal and other special operation troops have already been deployed in fields. Their operation missions are to strike major strategic targets including the supreme headquarters and nuclear and strategic rocket force bases of the DPRK in wartime. Never has there been such a time as now when almost all the special operation troops of the ground force, navy, marines and air force of the U.S. that earned an ill fame in the past overseas aggression wars, and the aggression troops that go operational for the so-called “high-density strike” have found their way to south Korea all at once. The U.S. and the south Korean puppet forces openly bluster that they will examine the feasibility of the combined “beheading operation,” a key program of new OPLAN 5015, and the “removal operation” of nuclear and strategic rocket forces of the DPRK at the upcoming Key Resolve, Foal Eagle 16 joint military exercises. The “beheading operation” touted by the enemies means a preemptive strike for “removing in advance the one empowered with the mandate of order” to deter the “use” of the nuclear and strategic rockets of the DPRK. Gravity of the situation is that the south Korean puppet forces are frantically joining the gangster-like U.S. in the implementation of “beheading operation,” not content with introducing nuclear war means of the U.S. into south Korea to kill the compatriots in the north. The above-said “beheading operation” and the moves to “bring down the social system in the DPRK” are the height of hostile acts against it. The service personnel and people of the DPRK regard the supreme headquarters of our revolution as dearer than their own lives. All the service personnel and people of the DPRK are ready to immediately and mercilessly punish without slightest leniency, tolerance and patience anyone provoking the dignified supreme headquarters even a bit. The Supreme Command of the Korean People’s Army clarifies the following principled stand reflecting the will of all the angry service personnel and people to take a thousand-fold revenge upon the enemies in view of the situation that has reached the dangerous phase which can never be overlooked any longer: From this moment all the powerful strategic and tactical strike means of our revolutionary armed forces will go into preemptive and just operation to beat back the enemy forces to the last man if there is a slight sign of their special operation forces and equipment moving to carry out the so-called “beheading operation” and “high-density strike.” Our primary target is the Chongwadae, the center for hatching plots for confrontation with the fellow countrymen in the north, and reactionary ruling machines. The Park Geun Hye group of traitors has long been disqualified to live in this land as it has recklessly introduced nuclear war means of its U.S. master to bring a nuclear disaster to this land, desperately decrying the DPRK’s nuclear deterrent and successes made in space development, treasures common to the Korean nation. The group will have to pay a very high price for its high treason to get the sun eclipsed and destroy the cradle of our life. If the enemies persist in their foolish military action, failing to come to their senses despite the DPRK’s crucial warnings, the DPRK will stage the second striking operation to totally eliminate its very source. The U.S. imperialist aggressor forces’ bases for invading the DPRK in the Asia-Pacific region and the U.S. mainland are its second striking target. The Korean-style striking operation which has been in the making for several decades for the final battle against the U.S. imperialists, robbers, will be an unimaginable retaliation war and reduce the cesspool of all evils to ashes never to rise again on our planet. They should bear this in mind. The DPRK is possessed of the most powerful and ultra-modern strike means in the world which are capable of dealing fatal blows at the U.S. mainland any moment and in any place. There is no need for the DPRK to keep secret about its military capabilities for which it has exerted all efforts to fight decisive battles with the U.S. for more than half a century. The U.S. is fated to be punished and perish in the flames due to the DPRK’s deadly strikes. The doom of the U.S. has been sealed. Its strongholds for aggression are within the range of the DPRK’s strikes and its weaponry is ready to open fire. The U.S. and south Korean puppet forces would be well advised to make the final choice: Whether they are to face merciless punishment or opt for making apology, though belatedly, and putting the situation under control. Nothing is more foolish and reckless than trying to make the sun sink. The DPRK’s service personnel and people who are like manifold fortresses protecting the supreme headquarters of the revolution will mercilessly frustrate any provocation of the hostile forces and dash forward more dynamically for the final victory of the great Paektusan nation.” (KCNA, “Crucial Statement of KPA Supreme Command,” February 23, 2016)

Kerry-Wang Yi: “KERRY: …First, we discussed North Korea’s increasingly provocative actions. The nuclear test that the DPRK conducted last month and its subsequent ballistic missile launches are provocative; they are threatening; they are a violation of the United Nations Security Council resolutions. And China and the United States agree completely that this — these actions merit an appropriate response through the United Nations Security Council, which was promised if they violated a resolution, and it was promised in the last resolution. There now have been several flagrant violations of multiple UN Security Council resolutions, and those violations threaten not only the peninsula, but they also are a threat to international peace and security. We, therefore, need to respond accordingly. And we agreed today to continue our efforts to make certain that response is forthcoming rapidly. Today, Foreign Minister Wang and I also discussed ways that we, along with our partners in the UN and the Six-Party Talks framework, can deepen our cooperation not only to respond to the actions that DPRK took but equally importantly because those reactions have a purpose and that purpose is to bring the DPRK back to the table for the purpose of the Six-Party Talks and particularly discussions about denuclearization. …WANG: (Via interpreter) Friends from the media, good afternoon. Indeed, this is my third meeting with the Secretary of State in the last 30 days. This shows that both sides attach a lot of importance to our relationship and we hope to deepen mutual understanding through dialogue and to promote cooperation in various fields. I know you are very interested in the talks that we’ve just had. In particular, you are interested in the issues on the Korean Peninsula and in the South China Sea. But actually, the Secretary of State has told you that we had a very extensive agenda. We discussed China-U.S. cooperation and we also discussed the problems that exist, but both sides know that China and United States have far more common interests than areas of disagreement. And we work together on so many areas that far outweigh areas of friction. As diplomats, it is our responsibility to identify problems, face them, and resolve them so as to create a good environment and atmosphere for a strong bilateral relationship. So in some way, as foreign ministers it is our task to clear the way ahead and to remove obstacles to the smooth development of our bilateral relations. …And of course, we discussed the current situation on the Korean Peninsula, as we did on previous occasions. In order to uphold the international nuclear nonproliferation regime, both sides do not accept the DPRK’s nuclear missile program, and we do not recognize the DPRK as a nuclear weapon state. The UN Security Council is in consultation about a new resolution. I would like to tell you that important progress has been made in the consultations, and we are looking at the possibility of reaching agreement on the draft resolution and passing it in the near future. Once we pass that agreement, we can effectively limit further progress of the DPRK’s nuclear missile program. At the same time, China would like to emphasize that the Security Council resolution cannot provide a fundamental solution to the Korean nuclear issue. To really do that, we need to return to the track of dialogue and negotiation. And the Secretary and I discussed this many times, and we agree on this. That is, the goal is to get back to the negotiation. China, as the chair of the Six-Party Talks, will continue to act in an objective and impartial way, and we will play our due role in exploring ways to resume the Six-Party Talks. In light of the evolving situation, we have put forward a basic proposal. That is, we want to pursue in parallel tracks the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula and the replacement of the Korean armistice with a peace agreement. We know certain parties have different views on this proposal. It has not come as a surprise to us, and China is open to new ideas or better ideas so that the relevant parties can have a proper discussion. China sees the parallel track approach as a reasonable one. It highlights the overriding goal of denuclearizing the peninsula at the same time it seeks to address the major concerns of the various parties. We would like to have further discussions about this with interested parties, including the specific steps that may lead to a resumption of dialogue. The Secretary and I also discussed the evolving situation on the peninsula. Both sides feel that we need to monitor the situation on the peninsula very closely in the coming two months. Various factors of instability might intertwine and have an impact, so under that situation it’s very important that the various parties have more dialogue so as to prevent the heightening of tension or escalation of the situation. In particular, we must prevent the situation on the peninsula from spinning out of control. That is a scenario that neither China nor the other parties wish to see, so China hopes that the relevant parties will not take any action that might heighten tension on the peninsula. … KIRBY: The first of our just two questions today will come from Voice of America. Q: Thank you very much for this opportunity. Mr. Secretary, on DPRK, could you please elaborate on the discussions of the language of a new UN Security Council resolution that is highly anticipated to move on this week? What’s the difference comparing to previous resolutions? …(Via interpreter) Foreign Minister Wang Yi, during the meeting, have you agreed on the resumption of the Six-Party Talks? … KERRY: I’m not going to elaborate with any detail on the proposed resolution because it is currently being evaluated by our teams in both Beijing and here in Washington. But the fact that it has reached a stage of where it is being evaluated is significant. It is fair to say, as Minister Wang Yi said a few minutes ago, we have made significant progress; it has been very constructive in the last days; and there is no question that if the resolution is approved, it will go beyond anything that we have previously passed. That was specifically called for in the last resolution in 2013. We passed a resolution then that said if China — if China — if DPRK — if DPRK violated the resolution and they either tested or engaged in a missile launch, there would be, quote, “significant impacts,” or steps taken as a consequence of that. I believe that what we are considering is significant, but as I say, it is in the appropriate evaluative stages and we both hope that this can move forward very soon. I also would emphasize what the foreign minister has said, and I think I said this in my opening comments, the goal of this is not to be in a series of cycling, repetitive punishments. That doesn’t lead anywhere. The goal is to try to get Kim Jong-un and the DPRK to recognize that all of the countries of the world are united, as we were with respect to Iran, in saying that the world will not be safer with additional nuclear weapons. That’s a fundamental decision. And what we need is for the DPRK to understand that it can rejoin the community of nations, it can actually ultimately have a peace agreement with the United States of America that resolves the unresolved issues of the Korean Peninsula, if it will come to the table and negotiate the denuclearization. So that’s the road ahead. That is precisely what this is about. We want a negotiated outcome. And it’s up to the DPRK to make a sensible decision and not deprive their people, as they are today, of the normal commerce of nations and the normal standard of living which their people could have, were they to reach a reasonable agreement. … WANG: (Via interpreter) The Chinese side, as the host party of the Six-Party Talks, of course wants to have an early resumption of the Six-Party Talks. And I remember last time I said that in today’s world any hotspot issue will require a solution based on negotiations, and the Korean Peninsula nuclear issue is no exception. But resumption of the peaceful talks require the concerted efforts of all parties and requires all parties to meet each other halfway. And we hope that in the near future there will be an opportunity emerging for the resumption of the peace talks, of the Six-Party Talks. And the Chinese side for this purpose is ready to take up our responsibility as the host party and to continue to play our constructive role and express our objective and just position. …Q: (Via interpreter) Thank you. My first question goes to Secretary Kerry. (In English.) (Inaudible) by the conversations you’ve had with Minister Wang with regard to the THAAD — the deployment of the THAAD system in South Korea. Is the U.S. concerned about potential Chinese and Russian opposition? … KERRY: Thank you very much. Russia and China have obviously both expressed concerns about THAAD. We have made it very clear that we are not hungry or anxious or looking for an opportunity to be able to deploy THAAD. The only reason for THAAD being in consultation — a decision has not yet been made; it is not deployed — but the reason the consultation is taking place is because of the provocative actions of North Korea, which has publicly announced it is focused on the United States and which is developing weapons which have the ability to attack the United States. THAAD is a purely defensive mechanism — weapon. It’s not an offensive weapon, doesn’t have offensive capability. It is purely capable of shooting down a ballistic missile that it intercepts, and it is there for the protection of Korea and the protection of the United States, if it were to be there. Now, we have said very clearly many times that the way to not only prevent THAAD from being deployed but also to see America be in a position to have less troops on the peninsula — maybe, one day — is by resolving the issue of the nuclear program in the DPRK and ultimately making peace on the peninsula. We are still living under the same armistice which ended the war back in the 1950s. So what our hope is that we could move down those tracks one way or the other over a period of time. And we have said that if we can get to denuclearization, there’s no need to deploy THAAD. I don’t think anything could be a better articulation of our desire. We’ve stated publicly, openly, and clearly what the conditions are for not having to consider its deployment, and that would be the denuclearization. That’s all — not even if North Korea fundamentally changed, but if it denuclearized, then this particular threat goes away. So we’re very clear about it. We hope very much that over the course of the next weeks and months the DPRK will come to some wisdom with regard to its program, recognizing that we are joined together with other nations at the United Nations in our readiness to put in place some additional tough measures to make clear that we are serious. Now, with respect to — it’s a very, very good question about the two tracks. Let me make this as clear as I can. There is only one foreign policy in the United States, and I have expressed that policy with respect to our desire to resolve the problem of North Korea, to pursue a negotiated resolution of the challenges of the South China Sea. And PACOM and DOD and State Department and CIA and all of our national security team are on the same page with respect to our policy with respect to the region. Our job is to put out the policy, work on the policy, try to implement the policy, and particularly, to try to pursue the diplomatic opportunities for peaceful resolution and a negotiated settlement to one conflict or another. But it is PACOM’s job and it is the Department of Defense’s job and it is the Secretary of Defense’s job to address what happens if those measures fail. Those are the departments of preparedness. They are the people who have to be prepared for any eventuality in the event that we are unsuccessful in pursuing the other track. So they will see the world in terms of potential future threats. And by the way, the PLA does the same thing. They see the world in terms of potential future conflict. Our job — Foreign Minister Wang Yi and myself and the President’s job — first of all, is to exhaust the options of diplomacy. The United States has usually done that and we’re at our best when we do. And so that is what we’re going to continue to do here, but make no mistake, nobody is in search of conflict. We are simply trying to be in a position where we can defend against any and all threats. And the most important thing that can happen over a period of time is for military-to-military cooperation to also take place so people understand what the other people are doing. I watched, as we all did, 50 years in the Cold War and an arms race. And we and the former Soviet Union went up to some 50,000 nuclear warheads aimed at each other — 50,000 — until finally, Gorbachev and Reagan met at Reykjavik and decided this was insanity and we needed to move in a different direction. And we did. And now we’ve ratified the START agreement and we’re down to some — or we will be at 1,500 or so, a huge difference from where we were as we went into a very dangerous course of move and countermove and lack of any understanding of what we were doing. That’s why diplomacy is important, that’s why these relationships are important — so that we understand each other, so that we know what the eventualities and possibilities are. And when the Defense Department makes the statement it made, it makes it based on its best judgment about how to deal with eventualities. But the more we can work together, the more we resolve these issues peacefully, the less need there is, obviously, for the measure of expenditure that is taking place in those other sectors, particularly in a world where counterterrorism is so urgent, and counter violent extremism and expenditures to try to deal with failed and failing states is far more important than a bi-state arms race. And I think that’s something we all ought to think about very carefully.” (Secretary of State John Kerry, Remarks with Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi, DoS, February 23, 2016)

Kim Gunn, the ministry’s director general for North Korean nuclear affairs, met with Jennifer Fowler, deputy assistant secretary of treasury for terrorist financing. They “consulted on ways to strengthen sanctions on North Korea,” it said. (Yonhap, “S. Korea, U.S Discuss Sanctions on N. Korea,” February 23, 2016)


2/24/16:
Tensions between South Korea and China over how to deal with the North have flared into an unusually blunt diplomatic dispute, with Seoul telling Beijing not to meddle in its talks with the United States over the possible deployment of an American missile-defense system. Jung Youn-kuk, a spokesman for President Park Geun-hye, said Seoul’s decision to discuss the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense was based on its own need for “self-defense against North Korea’s growing nuclear and missile threats.” “This is a matter we will decide upon according to our own security and national interests,” Jung said. “The Chinese had better recognize this point.” A senior official, speaking to reporters at the South Korean Foreign Ministry on the condition of anonymity, went further, advising China to “look into the root of the problem if it really wants to raise an issue with it” — a reference to the North’s pursuit of nuclear and ballistic missile technology and what South Koreans and Americans consider China’s failure to dissuade Pyongyang from that path. The angry retorts came a day after the Chinese ambassador to South Korea, Qiu Guohong, warned that the two countries’ relationship could be “destroyed in an instant” if Seoul allowed the THAAD system to be deployed on its soil. Beijing says the system would enable United States military radar to penetrate deeper into China, compromising its security. “The THAAD deployment would have a grave impact on China’s security interests,” Qiu was quoted as saying in a meeting with the leader of South Korea’s main opposition party. “The two nations have worked a lot to develop bilateral ties as they are today, but these efforts could be destroyed in an instant because of this one problem, and it would be difficult to restore the relations.” The opposition party, Minju, said Qiu had asked that his comments be made public. The United States has wanted to deploy the THAAD system in South Korea for years, and Seoul has long felt caught between its longtime ally and China, its leading trade partner, with which it has been trying to cultivate a closer relationship. But that equation changed after North Korea conducted its fourth nuclear test on January 6 and followed up a month later with the launch of a long-range rocket. After China resisted efforts to place tougher sanctions on the North, South Korea formally announced that it was discussing the THAAD deployment with Washington. The floor leader of Park’s governing party in Parliament, Won Yoo-chul, called Qiu’s warning “blackmail.” “A real friendly relationship between South Korea and China can be maintained not by words, but by action,” he said, admonishing Beijing for not acting aggressively enough to rein in Pyongyang. Secretary of State John Kerry expressed a similar message in Washington during a joint news conference yesterday with Wang Yi, the visiting Chinese foreign minister. “We have said that if we can get to denuclearization, there’s no need to deploy THAAD,” Kerry said. The talks between South Korea and the United States have stoked old fears in China and Russia of an American antimissile shield stretching from Alaska to Southeast Asia. The Defense Ministry in Seoul says THAAD would provide a second, higher-altitude layer to the South’s own ballistic-missile interception abilities, which are based on Patriot missiles intended mainly to stop missiles at low altitudes. Gen. Curtis M. Scaparrotti, commander of the American forces in South Korea, and the South’s defense officials have said that it was critical for the allies to establish a “layered and interoperable” ballistic missile defense system. Yet many South Koreans, including the main opposition party, have reservations about the possible diplomatic and economic costs of deploying the system and about its effectiveness in defending the country against hundreds of short-range missiles from the North. A research institute in Seoul, the Peace Foundation, has argued that THAAD’s main purpose would be to protect the United States from intercontinental ballistic missiles from the North, should Pyongyang succeed in developing them. Such a missile “is not a direct threat to us,” it said. Cheong Seong-chang, a senior analyst at the Sejong Institute in South Korea, said a THAAD deployment would probably undermine the South’s strategic interests by pushing China closer to the North. China, which accounts for one-fourth of South Korea’s external trade, could retaliate by boycotting South Korean exports and discouraging visits by Chinese tourists, he warned. According to analysts, China thinks THAAD in South Korea would undermine its nuclear deterrence by giving the Americans the ability to quickly track launches of Chinese missiles. But defense officials here said that would not make much difference because the Americans already have a THAAD battery on Guam and operate powerful radar in the region, as well as satellites over China. Adm. Harry B. Harris Jr., commander of the United States Pacific Command, told a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing yesterday that it was “preposterous that China would try to wedge itself between South Korea and the United States for a missile system designed to defend Americans and Koreans on the peninsula.” Qiu, the Chinese ambassador, was quoted as telling the opposition politicians yesterday that Beijing trusted Seoul’s promise that any THAAD radar deployed here would be directed toward North Korea, and that it would not have enough range to cover China. Choe Sang-hun, “South Korea Bluntly Tells China Not to Meddle in Its Missile-Defense Talks with U.S.,” New York Times, February 25, 2016, p. A-6)

President Barack Obama made a surprise appearance at a meeting between Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi and U.S. National Security Advisor Susan Rice, the White House said. The meeting between Wang and Rice was watched closely as the two sides were expected to reach a final agreement on a draft U.N. Security Council resolution imposing sanctions on North Korea for its nuclear and missile tests. The two sides “agreed on the importance of a strong and united international response to North Korea’s provocations, including through a U.N. Security Council Resolution that goes beyond previous resolutions,” the White House said in a statement. “They agreed that they will not accept North Korea as a nuclear weapons state,” it said. (Yonhap, “Obama Makes Surprise Visit at Meeting between His Security Adviser and Chinese FM,” February 24, 2016)


2/25/16:
ROK Foreign Ministry spokesperson Cho June-hyuck dismissed recent media reports suggesting the U.S. has opened up to North Korea’s demand for peace treaty talks. “South Korea and the U.S. maintain the consistent view that now is the time to make North Korea pay a bone-numbing price for its provocations through stronger pressure on the North on all levels, to concentrate on creating an environment in which North Korea must change, and that denuclearization is the foremost issue in any future talks with the North,” he said. He added that speculating on the possibility of peace treaty talks is not helpful to responding to the current “grave situation.” (Yonhap, “Senior U.S. Official to Visit S. Korea for N.K. Talks,” February 25, 2016)

Michael Madden: “With less than three months left before the 7th Workers’ Party of Korea (WPK) Congress is scheduled to convene in May, Kim Jong Un appears to be appointing hardliners to key national security positions. The growing prominence of these officials—party cadres and military officers who support a more belligerent policy toward the ROK, the United States and Japan, and who generally do not favor North-South engagement—is worthy of note for those focused on North Korea. In appointing hardliners, the supreme leader may be trying to balance the divergent interests and agendas of competing constituencies, which can be broadly identified as: hawks disposed to tighter domestic restrictions and moderates (and a few reformers) seeking somewhat looser social and economic controls as well as opportunities to expand cultural and economic contacts. Possible additional personnel changes near or after the meeting might form a more stable environment in which Kim could implement longer-term policies. In the meantime, given the North’s nuclear test in January and satellite launch in February, Pyongyang watchers should expect the coming months to resemble the tense geostrategic environment last seen during the spring of 2013, after the North’s third nuclear test, when Pyongyang declared a national emergency, mobilized its military and declared that the safety of foreign citizens in the two Koreas could not be guaranteed. Three recent appointments—Rim Kwang Il, Kim Yong Chol and Ri Myong Su—suggest the country will answer a new round of denunciations with heightened brinkmanship in advance of its 7th Party Congress. Rim Kwang Il In the second half of 2015, Lieutenant-General Rim Kwang Il was appointed Director of the Korean People’s Army (KPA) General Staff Operations Bureau, arguably the most powerful position in North Korea’s armed forces. An unabashed hawk, the 51-year-old has spent much of his military career in the KPA’s forward-deployed ground corps. These units are deployed along the MDL and would be first to protect the DPRK from an invasion from the South or, conversely, the first to attack the ROK in a Northern invasion. In 2015, he took part in the planning and command of the DMZ landmine deployments that precipitated the inter-Korean crisis in August. This KPA director position has seen a dramatic turnover since Kim Jong Un came to power, strongly suggesting that Kim has taken a more active role than his father in the daily operational command of the North’s armed forces.] Meanwhile, the supreme leader has continued a generational change within the KPA high command, gradually removing all military commanders who gained their formative military experience in the Fatherland Liberation War (Korean War). While leaders of Lieutenant-General Rim’s generation have studied traditional combined arms operations like their predecessors, they began their careers when the DPRK was starting to develop and expand an asymmetric warfare toolkit that now includes light infantry special operations forces, cyber and other electronic warfare capabilities, and weapons of mass destruction. North Korea’s high command now consists of general-grade officers who know how to integrate the KPA’s conventional assets with asymmetric capabilities in military planning and training. As a result, North Korean leaders seem to be better prepared to use asymmetric tactics in future military provocations. Kim Yong Chol The rise of hawks in the DPRK’s national security establishment and political culture are even more evident in the recent appointment of Kim Yong Chol as WPK Secretary and Director of the United Front Department (UFD), a civilian intelligence agency and policymaking shop which formulates the North’s policy toward South Korea and manages ROK interactions. The 70-year-old is a four-star general and a career military intelligence official. Kim Yong Chol is the former head of the Reconnaissance General Bureau (RGB), which manages the bulk of the DPRK’s intelligence community, who was implicated as having a major role in the 2010 sinking of the ROK naval corvette Cheonan. In addition, he manages cyberwarfare units alleged to have been involved in cyberattacks against South Korea. In 2009, Kim Yong Chol supervised the migration of three key intelligence agencies—the Operations Department, the External Liaison Department and Office No. 35—from the WPK Central Committee (the party apparatus) to the RGB, which was then placed under the National Defense Commission (NDC). The sole holdout was UFD, which remains firmly under WPK control. Given Kim Yong Chol’s involvement in the 2009 intelligence reorganization, what are the likely institutional effects of his new WPK and UFD appointments? As the overseer of UFD’s formidable bureaucratic fiefdom, Kim may now take a more active role in formulating the DPRK’s substantive policies toward the ROK. He would be able to exercise some control over personnel appointments to various ROK-related organizations involving cultural exchanges, civilian aid and public affairs. In addition, he would have a hand in selecting the DPRK representatives who participate in further inter-Korean interactions. Finally, Kim Yong Chol would have an active role in the management of the Kaesong Industrial Complex—if it reopens—which he previously inspected in his capacity as a senior KPA official. At least two possible interests may have motivated Kim Yong Chol’s UFD appointment. 1. The regime may want to return all of its intelligence programs and assets to direct Party control, dissolving the RGB as it has existed for the last seven years and tasking Kim Yong Chol with overseeing an expanded UFD on behalf of the WPK Central Committee. If this is the case, Kim Jong Un would be re-establishing the intelligence structure established by his grandfather and signal stronger and less ambiguous Party control of the military. Kim may also gain control over elements of the WPK International Affairs Department (IAD), which contains some basic intelligence collection and analysis units. Like his predecessor at UFD, Kim Yong Chol is juggling leadership responsibilities for both UFD and IAD in order to cope with the declining health of Kang Sok Ju, the latter organization’s current director. 2. Kim Yang Gon’s demise and Kim Yong Chol’s appointment could conceivably be linked to a military plot to grab revenue from the Kaesong Industrial Complex. If some insider ordered Kim Yang Gon’s death, the perpetrator might well have guessed that the supreme leader would replace the late UFD boss with Kim Yong Chol, who was already well positioned at Kaesong to support a money grab. There may also be a personal motivation because Kim Yang Gon—and other senior cadres at UFD, IAD and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs—called for Kim Yong Chol’s ouster as head of the RGB because they viewed him as an impediment to inter-Korean interactions and better relations. It is also worth noting that Kim Yong Chol had served as the chief North Korean delegate in several rounds of inter-Korean talks in 1991-92 and 2006-07 (and maybe more). He might be a hardliner, but if Kim Jong Un wanted to reach for someone in a hurry who had long experience actually at the negotiating table with the ROK, who knew the history by heart and had the authority to stare down the South Koreans, it would be Kim Yong Chol. Ri Myong Su In early February, prior to the launch of the Kwangmyongsong-4, General Ri Yong Gil was removed from his position as Chief of the KPA General Staff. Replacing him is General Ri Myong Su, an 82-year-old who had been in retirement for more than two years prior to his latest appointment. Previously, he served concurrently as Minister of People’s Security and as a National Defense Commission member. From 1996 to 2007, he was Director of the KPA General Staff Operations Bureau. General Ri is one of the symbolic faces of the DPRK’s songun (military-first) politics because of his high command position during the 1990s. More substantively, General Ri’s crisis-management experience is certain to prove useful as international tensions rise this year. General Ri’s advancing age bucks the trend of recent personnel appointments that have favored relatively younger officials, but he possesses valuable institutional memory and experience in both the North’s internal security apparatus and its conventional armed forces. If the vertiginous nature of the numerous personnel changes to the KPA high command metastasized into internal instability, for example, Kim Jong Un’s survival could depend on someone with Ri Myong Su’s level of institutional knowledge and experience. In short, General Ri possesses the necessary command experience and ability to keep more ambitious hardliners in check as their influence grows. These recent personnel appointments show a continuation of two trends. First, an unfolding generational change in the KPA high command meant to equip the military leadership with the ability to plan and exploit relatively new military assets. Second, Kim Yong Chol’s appointment provides Pyongyang watchers with another salient example of a senior military official migrating from the upper echelon of the KPA to the upper levels of the party leadership. For Kim Jong Un, the appointment of hawkish and hardline senior officials appears strategic. Hawks and hardliners are traditionally the most loyal to the Kim family’s leadership, even if the hawks may possess and press their own agendas in front of the supreme leader. At the same time, a power balance is underway prior to the convocation of the 7th Party Congress in May. The gathering is likely to establish a more prominent role for the Party, greater civilian control over state resources, and stronger Party control over the North’s armed forces. Therefore, Kim Jong Un seems to be practicing inclusive politics by letting military officials migrate into the Party power structure and putting hawks at the head of the military. In the short term, the hawks in high positions will serve Kim Jong Un well as tensions continue to rise on the peninsula. (Michael Madden, “Let the Hawks Soar,” 38North, February 25, 2016)

5/13/16 — Three months have passed since the Kaesong Industrial Complex was shut down. That same day saw the “execution” of former Korean People’s Army Chief of General Staff Ri Yong-gil. Yet the intelligence proved false when Rodong Sinmun reported on May 10 that Ri had been named as a KWP Central Military Commission member and politburo candidate member at the first plenary session of the party‘s seventh Central Committee. It was an embarrassment for the Park Geun-hye administration, which had previously leaked the false intelligence to the media. The big problem, though, is that it was the result of a structural issue: the misuse and abuse of North Korea intelligence by the Blue House, National Intelligence Service, and other state agencies to suit Park’s policies and perceptions, which are rooted in predictions of an imminent collapse in Pyongyang. At 11:48 am on Feb. 10, the South Korean government made its final decision to shut down the complex and told the press of an upcoming announcement. At around 3 pm that same day, the Unification Ministry, which was in a commotion over the decision, provided reporters with an “off the record” PDF file titled “North Korea unexpectedly purges Chief of General Staff Ri Yong-gil in early February.” It asked to be cited anonymously as a “North Korea source.” In addition to stating that North Korea had “executed Chief of General Staff Gen. Ri Yong-gil in early February on charges of ‘factionalism’ and ‘abuse of power and corruption,’” it also described Ri as an “avid drinker” who was “in poor health because of a deteriorating liver.” The report of Ri’s execution was in itself unusual. “This kind of reporting of North Korea intelligence has not happened since the Unification Ministry was founded,” said a reporter who has covered the ministry since the early 1990s. The Unification Ministry’s function is to analyze North Korea intelligence, not produce it. Even when it has received intelligence from the NIS in the past, it has not made it public. But the reports about Ri were just one of several recent leaks of intelligence from a “related organization.” A similar situation happened with the group defection of 13 workers at a North Korean restaurant in China. In such cases, the “related organization” is almost without exception the NIS. After Hankyore printed a May 11 article showing the claims of Ri’s execution to be unfounded, an NIS official telephoned the reporter to insist that “the NIS never made that intelligence public” — effectively confirming speculation that after its decision to shut down the Kaesong Complex, Park‘s Blue House then had the Unification Ministry release “intelligence” produced by the NIS on Ri’s alleged purge. The false reports of Ri’s purge appear connected with the Kaesong Complex’s shutdown. Indeed, it seems likely to have been a way of drawing renewed emphasis to the Pyongyang regime‘s “violence and instability” to counter possible negative opinion at home over the decision. The document on Ri’s execution stressed current leader Kim Jong-un‘s “distrust and anxiety” toward key officials and predicted that his “politics of fear” would result in “senior North Korean officials seeming blindly obedient on the surface, but with deepening inward skepticism.” The execution, it added, was “expected to function to increase the North Korean regime’s instability.” A structural factor behind the intelligence failure and abuse may have been Park’s longstanding perception of the North Korean regime as being on the verge of collapse. “Working-level intelligence agents don’t play around when it comes to intelligence,” said a source with abundant experience working with North Korea intelligence within the administration. “Most of what we have described as ‘intelligence failures’ have been disasters brought on by the top leaders and the ‘tiger moths’ currying favor with them in an attempt to use North Korea issues for domestic political ends,” the source added. “The problem lies in the skewed perceptions of President Park Geun-hye, who wants to interpret every purge or execution of a high-ranking North Korean military or party figure like Jang Song-thaek, Hyon Yong-chol, or Ri Yong-gil as a sign of the Kim Jong-un’s instability and imminent collapse,” said a former senior government official. “For Ri Yong-gil to be confirmed alive and well after the administration essentially announced he had been executed is a serious intelligence failure and misuse that speaks to the need for the Park administration to do some serious reflection on its North Korea policy,” the former official added. (Kim Jin-cheol, Lee Je-hun and Choi Hye-jung, “Why Does the NIS Have So Many Intelligence Failures,” Hankyore, May 12, 2016)


2/26/16:
The United States has unveiled a United Nations resolution on North Korea, packed with additional sanctions. Ambassador to the United Nations Samantha Power told reporters that the resolution, if adopted, would represent the strongest set of U.N. sanctions imposed in more than two decades. The frustrated Security Council is acting in the wake of another North Korean nuclear test and a missile test. “These sanctions, if adopted, would send an unambiguous and unyielding message to the DPRK regime. The world will not accept your proliferation. There will be consequences for your actions, and we will work relentlessly and collectively to stop your nuclear program,” Power said. She outlined key points of the proposal, including: All cargo going in and out of North Korea would be subject to mandatory inspection; all small arms and other conventional weapons would be prohibited from being sold to North Korea; financial sanctions would target North Korean banks and assets; limiting, and in some cases banning, exports of coal, iron, gold, titanium and rare earth minerals; prohibiting the supply of aviation fuel, including rocket fuel. Power stressed that the resolution is not meant to punish the people of North Korea. “The North Korean people have suffered so much already under one of the most brutal regimes the world has ever known. Rather, this resolution focuses on a ruling elite that have inflicted so much of that suffering,” she said. A U.S. official familiar with the text said the 22-page resolution lists 17 North Korean individuals and 12 North Korean entities that would be subject to sanctions. The people and companies are believed to be facilitators for North Korea’s weapons programs. Some operate overseas. The company list includes the aerospace equivalent of NASA in Pyongyang. A major bank in North Korea suspected of conducting lots of financial transactions for the nation’s military nuclear and missile tests is also on the list, the official said. The sanctions would reportedly ban more luxury goods going into North Korea. When asked whether the resolution would make a difference in North Korea’s behavior, the official expressed confidence. “It will have an impact,” said the official. (Richard Roth and Dana Ford, “U.S. Proposes ‘Unprecedented’ Sanctions Resolution on North Korea,” CNN, February 25, 2016) As a new set of sanctions against North Korea circulated at the United Nations Security Council, analysts in South Korea and China expressed doubts that the measures would be tough enough to force the pariah state to give up its nuclear weapons. The United States presented a draft resolution it had negotiated with China to the Security Council yesterday, calling for wide-ranging penalties against North Korea for a nuclear test it conducted on January 6 and for its launching of a long-range rocket a month later, both of which violated previous council resolutions. If adopted, the proposed resolution would ban countries from selling to the North all small arms and other conventional weapons, as well as dual-use nuclear and missile-related goods and items like trucks that could be converted for military use. It would also ban the sales of aviation and rocket fuel to hurt the North Korean military’s ability to conduct regular drills. It would require United Nations member states to inspect all cargo passing through their territories to or from North Korea for illicit goods. Until now, countries were required to inspect North Korean cargo only if they had reasonable grounds to believe it contained illicit items. “This could be bad because most of the parts for the nuclear facilities could only come from the outside world,” Wang Junsheng, a researcher on North Korea at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, said about the mandatory inspection of cargo. The resolution is also expected to expand the list of luxury goods countries are banned from selling to the North. It would also attempt to limit North Korea’s sale of minerals, especially coal and iron ore, two of its most important exports. Hua Chunying, a spokeswoman for China’s foreign ministry, said yesterday that her government was confident that new United Nations sanctions on North Korea could curb its nuclear arms program. But the draft contained no effective sanctions against a booming trade across the relatively porous 870-mile border between China and North Korea — a lifeline not only for the impoverished North Korean people but also for their government’s ability to earn cash. Nor did it require countries, especially China, to cut off oil exports to the North. It would also not affect tens of thousands of North Korean workers at factories, construction sites and logging camps in China, Russia, Africa and the Middle East. According to some estimates, they send home $200 million to $300 million a year, most of which human rights groups contend ends up in the coffers of the North’s leader, Kim Jong-un. “These sanctions will certainly hurt the North,” said Koh Yu-hwan, a professor at Dongguk University in Seoul. “But I don’t think they will hurt them enough to abandon their nuclear weapons.” Analysts in China said Beijing’s approval of the sanctions proposed by the United States was the result of a complex calculus by Communist Party leaders. A factor that has loomed large for them in recent weeks is plans by Washington to deploy an antiballistic missile system, called THAAD, in South Korea. Chinese officials are seeking ways to prevent that from happening. “If it was not for the THAAD issue, there might not be such cooperation between China and the U.S.,” said Shen Dingli, a professor of international relations at Fudan University in Shanghai. “By doing this, it is still possible for China to dissuade the Americans from deploying THAAD at China’s doorstep.” China’s agreement to limit imports of North Korean coal and iron ore, for example, came with an important caveat: It should be demonstrated that such imports would support illicit North Korean activities. North Korea’s minerals, mainly its coal and iron ore, accounted for 53 percent of its $2.8 billion in exports to China in 2014, according to data compiled by the government-run Korea Institute for National Unification in Seoul. But because of a slowing Chinese economy and sharp declines in global prices, those coal and iron ore exports have been decreasing since 2013. North Korea has already begun making up for the shortfall by exporting more workers abroad, the analyst Lee Seok said in a report published by the Korea Institute last month. The workers have therefore become an increasingly important source of cash for the North Korean government. Nor would the proposed sanctions affect North Korea’s growing business of making clothes on contracts from Chinese companies. North Korean textile exports to China expanded to $741 million in 2014 from $186 million in 2010, and the goods are made mostly at factories run by the North Korean military or the ruling Workers’ Party, analysts and officials in Seoul said. Currently, an estimated 75 percent of North Korea’s foreign trade, including almost all of its oil imports, is with China, providing Beijing with unique economic leverage over the North. The two-way trade amounted to $5.5 billion last year, according to figures from Chinese customs authorities. But China’s approach on how to solve the North Korean problem is fundamentally different from that of the United States or South Korea. It insists that sanctions should not aim to push North Korea toward instability but to induce it back to the negotiating table. After negotiating the proposed sanctions with his Chinese counterpart, Wang Yi, Secretary of State John Kerry said on Tuesday that North Korea could ultimately have a peace agreement with the United States “if it will come to the table and negotiate the denuclearization.” Still, the proposed sanctions, especially mandatory inspections of all cargo, would make it harder for North Korea to raise funds and import technology for its nuclear and ballistic missile programs, analysts said. Wang Junsheng said negotiations between the United States and China over the terms of the sanctions had dragged on for seven weeks because Washington had wanted Beijing to cut off more trade. That included exports of oil and imports of coal, he said. But although China was fed up with Kim’s aggressive and unpredictable behavior, it refused to enshrine those trade limits in the sanctions because energy supplies are tied to the well-being of civilians in North Korea and China — especially important during the harsh winter, he said. “Cutting off the trade could trigger a mass-scale humanitarian crisis,” Wang said. (Choe Sang-hun and Edward Wong, “Doubts in Asia over Whether New Sanctions Can Work,” New York Times, February 27, 2016, p. A-8) China’s foreign ministry spokesman Hong Lei said the new U.N. resolution must focus on preventing North Korea from developing its nuclear and missile programs. “The Chinese side believes that the relevant sanctions should focus on curbing North Korea’s nuclear and missile programs,” Hong told a daily press briefing. “Sanctions should not affect the normal life of North Korean people.” (Yonhap, “UN Resolution Must Not Affect Normal Life of N. Korean People: China,” February 25, 2016)

The U.S. test-fired Minuteman-3 intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) on February 25. …” (KCNA, KCNA Commentary Blasts Most Shameless U.S. DPRK Policy,” March 12, 2016)

The U.S. director of national intelligence said it’s only a matter of weeks or months until North Korea recovers plutonium from its nuclear facilities. Speaking before the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, James Clapper said in addition to plans to extract plutonium, North Korea exports ballistic missiles and related materials to countries like Iran and Syria. But the North’s claims of a “successful” hydrogen bomb test don’t quite measure up to certain requirements. The low yield of the test is not consistent with a successful test of a thermonuclear device, Clapper said. (Elizabeth Shim, “Intelligence Chief James Clapper: North Korea Ready to Start Plutonium Production,” UPI, February 26, 2016)


2/27/16:
North Korea boasted of a newly developed anti-tank weapon that its leader said was so powerful it could turn the most heavily armored enemy tanks into “boiled pumpkin.” Pyongyang‘s state media said leader Kim Jong-Un had watched tests of the portable, laser-guided rocket and declared it had the “longest firing range in the world”, and was “as accurate as a sniper’s rifle.” “He noted with great satisfaction that even the special armored tanks and cars of the enemies which boast their high maneuverability and striking power are no more than a boiled pumpkin before the anti-tank guided weapon,” reported KCNA. Kim called for the weapon to go into mass production as soon as possible and for it to be deployed to frontline units and coastal defense units. (AFP, “New N. Korean Weapon Turns Tanks into ‘Boiled Pumpkin,’” Korea Herald, February 27, 2016)

Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs Daniel Russel dismissed allegations that the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) missile system is a diplomatic bargaining chip in Washington’s negotiations with Beijing over the North Korean issue and other security agendas in the region. “There’s no connection between what is going on in the diplomatic track in the U.N. Security Council and the question of the deployment of THAAD,” Russel told reporters in Seoul. “THAAD is not a diplomatic bargaining chip.” Russel made the remarks after a meeting with Foreign Minister Yun Byung-se, Vice Foreign Minister Lim Sung-nam and Deputy Foreign Minister Kim Hong-kyun. He visited Seoul to discuss issues related to a U.N. resolution on tougher sanctions against North Korea. (Yi Whan-woo, “’THAAD Is Not ‘Bargaining Chip,’” Korea Times, February 27, 2016)


2/29/16:
Deputy Foreign Minister Kim Hong-kyun has been appointed as South Korea’s top nuclear envoy, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs announced, Monday. Hwang Joon-kook, Kim’s predecessor, will become Korea’s ambassador to the United Kingdom. Kim, who joined the foreign ministry in 1984, has worked in various appointments within it, including the director of the North America Division 2 under North American Affairs Bureau and the senior coordinator for ROK-U.S Security Cooperation Division. From 2009 to 2012, he served as the director-general for the Korean Peninsula Peace Regime Bureau under the Office of Korean Peninsula Peace and Security Affairs, dealing with the North’s torpedoing of the naval ship Cheonan and shelling of Yeonpyeong Island in 2010. He also worked for the presidential transition committee in 2013 before serving as the secretary for policy coordination at the National Security Office in 2014. (Kang Seung-woo, “Seoul Replaces Nuke Envoy,” Korea Times, February 29, 2016)

A senior South Korean diplomat dismissed growing concerns over the absence of progress in Seoul’s initiative to build trust with North Korea, saying the initiative is still valid and should be pushed for with a long-term perspective. Speaking at a forum that the state-run Korea National Diplomatic Academy hosted to evaluate the first three years of the Park Geun-hye administration’s diplomacy, Second Vice Foreign Minister Cho Tae-yul also pointed to Pyongyang’s recalcitrant and provocative behavior, which he said has made it difficult for Seoul’s “peninsular trust-building process” to yield meaningful progress. “When North Korea does not show any signs of willingness to change course, there can’t be any progress. That is a corollary,” he said at the forum “The trust-building process remains valid and should be seen from a long-term perspective.” He added that the trust-building process would move forward should the communist regime take a path toward denuclearization with “sincerity.” (Yonhap, “Peninsular Trust-Building Process Still Valid: Vice Minister,” Korea Herald, February 29, 2016)


3/1/16:
President Park Geun-hye vowed to show North Korea that its nuclear arms program will not guarantee the regime’s survival, warning Pyongyang of newer and tougher sanctions. “Based on unyielding readiness and international cooperation, the government will make sure North Korea will have no choice but to give up its nuclear program,” Park said in an address commemorating the 97th anniversary of Korea’s independence movement against Japanese colonial rule, which was celebrated Tuesday. “Now, it is time for North Korea to make a choice. It has become clear that the existing countermeasures won’t stop the North’s determination for nuclear development,” Park said. “We must show the North clearly that exploiting its people and concentrating everything on nuclear development for the regime’s survival will never succeed. We will show them it is meaningless.” Park said Seoul will keep the door open for talks on denuclearization, but pressure by the South and the international community will continue if Pyongyang refuses to give up its nuclear program. Since the North’s fourth nuclear test in January, it was the first time Park mentioned the possibility of dialogue. Park’s message to Pyongyang was strong but toned down from a February 16 speech at the National Assembly in which she warned the Kim Jong-un regime that it would only speed along its “collapse” by maintaining its nuclear ambitions. That speech was seen as a departure from her previous policy of so-called trust-building on the peninsula. Park also issued a conspicuously brief and reserved message to Japan after Korea and Japan struck a deal to settle the issue of the Japanese military’s forced recruitment of Korean women into sexual slavery during colonial times and World War II. “The Japanese government must not forget its past misdeeds, respect the spirit of the agreement and fully implement it so that our future generations will learn from it,” she said. She added that a new chapter in Korea-Japan relations could be opened when Japan faces history squarely. The main opposition Minjoo Party of Korea criticized Park’s approach to both Pyongyang and Tokyo. “A realistic and effective policy based on a rational assessment of the situation is as important as the president’s determination to resolve the nuclear crisis,” Minjoo Party spokesman Kim Sung-soo said. “Above all, she must seriously consider the impact that strained inter-Korean relations have on national security and the economy to make sure there will be no burden on the country and the people.” Kim said Park was making an empty request to Japan to remember its wartime past and fully implement the agreed settlement on the comfort women issue. “The Japanese government not only refused to offer a formal apology but also denied that it had forced the women into sexual slavery despite its agreement with the Korean government,” Kim said. “Park must show a bold attitude to Japan that the meaningless agreement will be voided in order to receive a true apology from the Japanese government.” (Ser Myo-ja, “Park Vows to Denuclearize North,” JoongAng Ilbo, March 2, 2016)

North Korea dismissed South Korea’s demand for it to first denuclearize before holding any discussions to sign a peace treaty, accusing the South of starting a nuclear arms race on the Korean Peninsula. In a signed commentary carried by KCNA, Pyongyang also rejected Seoul’s demand to be a part of such discussions to sign a peace treaty that will replace the Korean armistice agreement “(The) great irony is that the South Korean puppet forces who are no more than war servants of the U.S. are talking about the main player in replacing the Armistice Agreement (AA) which has existed for more than 60 years. As well known to the world, the AA concluded on July 27, 1953 was signed by the DPRK and the U.S.,” it said. The commentary came a few days after a spokesman for South Korea’s Unification Ministry insisted any discussions on signing a peace treaty must be preceded by denuclearization of the North. The North again dismissed the call, claiming the South was equally responsible for the nuclearization of the Korean Peninsula. “The South Korean puppet forces have allowed the conversion of South Korea into the biggest arsenal of nuclear weapons in the Far East as a shock brigade of the U.S. for a war for more than six decades and ceaselessly staged war exercises, big and small, against the DPRK under various codenames,” the KCNA commentary said. “Peace will never settle in the Korean Peninsula as long as the South Korean puppet group is hell-bent on confrontation with the compatriots in the north as the shock brigade of the U.S. for carrying out its scenario for stifling the DPRK,” said the commentary. (Yonhap, “N. Korea Rejects S. Korea’s Call for Denuclearization before Peace Treaty Talks,” Korea Herald, March 1, 2016)


3/2/16:
Exasperated with North Korea’s defiant testing of nuclear bombs and ballistic missiles, the United Nations Security Council voted unanimously to severely toughen its penalties against the isolated country. The 15-member Council approved a resolution, negotiated for weeks by American and Chinese officials, that called for inspecting all cargo going in and out of the country, banning all weapons trade and expanding the list of individuals facing sanctions. Diplomats said the resolution contained the most stringent measures yet to undermine the North’s ability to raise money and secure technology and other resources for its nuclear weapons program. Much depends, however, on whether ChinaNorth Korea’s leading trade partner and diplomatic shield — will enforce it. Samantha Power, the American ambassador to the United Nations, called the resolution “comprehensive, robust and unyielding,” and said enforcement must be as well. The Council has sought to hobble North Korea’s nuclear weapons program before, but the country has repeatedly flouted those measures. In January, it conducted its fourth nuclear test and launched a rocket in February, even as diplomats were negotiating the current resolution. The toughest component would require all countries to inspect all cargo passing through their territory to or from North Korea. Inspections had been required only if there was reasonable suspicion of contraband aboard. The list of banned goods was expanded by the resolution to include luxury watches, Jet Skis and snowmobiles worth more than $2,000. While that may seem inconsequential for such a poor country, Kim Jong-un has been known to use such items to curry favor with his fellow elites. The resolution also requires countries to expel North Korean diplomats accused of illicit activities. It prohibits North Korea from sending martial arts experts to train police officers in foreign countries, as a United Nations panel recently accused Pyongyang of doing in Uganda. Loopholes remain, however. North Korea can still buy oil and sell its coal and iron ore, as long as such transactions are not used for its nuclear weapons program; compliance would be difficult to prove. Although prices have fallen in recent years, minerals still account for 53 percent of North Korea’s $2.5 billion in exports to China, its chief supplier of oil. The Obama administration welcomed passage of the resolution, with the spokesman Josh Earnest calling it “a strong message to Pyongyang.” The administration also announced related actions by the Treasury and State Departments that levied sanctions on five North Korean government entities, including the National Defense Commission, and a dozen North Koreans, including four high-level military officials, for their nuclear and weapons proliferation work. The designation freezes any properties they may have under American jurisdiction and bars American citizens from doing business with them. “Together, these actions reflect a strong and unified response to North Korea’s provocative, destabilizing and dangerous activities,” Treasury Secretary Jacob J. Lew said in a statement. China signaled that it saw the resolution as spurring peace talks soon, a goal that was welcomed by nonproliferation advocates. Darryl Kimball of the Arms Control Association said the resolution could be useful as leverage to persuade Pyongyang to return to the bargaining table. But he also criticized the Obama administration’s policy of “insisting on denuclearization as a precondition for talks to halt and reverse North Korea’s advancing nuclear and missile capabilities.” “In the next several weeks, it will be important for Washington and Beijing to communicate to Pyongyang that they are willing to formally resume negotiations,” Kimball argued. Beijing has been loath to draw attention to Pyongyang’s human rights abuses, which the United Nations has documented and Washington has emphasized. The new resolution is not explicitly aimed at human rights violations, though Power made that link in her remarks to the Council. Referring to widespread malnutrition, Power accused North Koreaof caring more about expanding its nuclear weapons program than “growing its children.” The Chinese ambassador, Liu Jieyi, focused on the North’s tests, done in violation of previous resolutions. He also expressed skepticism about the effectiveness of sanctions, and used the occasion to criticize an American proposal to deploy a missile shield in South Korea. “Sanctions are not an end to themselves, and the Security Council cannot fundamentally resolve the nuclear issue on the Korean Peninsula,” Liu said. “Today’s resolution should be a new starting point and a paving stone for the political settlement of the nuclear issue on the Korean Peninsula.” Analysts noted that previous sanctions were hampered because of a lack of vigorous enforcement by member states and the North’s ingenious ways of circumventing them. The Council does not punish countries that aid North Korea’s illicit trade or that fail to put sanctions in effect. China’s agreement to limit imports of North Korean coal and iron ore came with a condition: It should be demonstrated that such imports would support the North’s illicit weapons programs. By determining whether a shipment of coal from North Korea was for “livelihood purposes,” China can maintain leverage it hopes to use to bring the North back to talks, but not to push it to the point of disintegration, South Korean analysts said. It is also up to China to control a booming network of trade and smuggling across its 870-mile border with North Korea. Those transactions have become a lifeline for the impoverished people, but most of them are also run directly by — or involve kickbacks to — party and military officials, according to the analysts. (Somini Sengupta and Choe Sang-Hun, “Security Council, Led by U.S. and China, Toughens Penalties on North Korea,” New York Times, March 3, 2016, p. A-4)

Resolution 2270 (2016) Adopted by the Security Council at its 7638th meeting, on 2 March 2016:

The Security Council, Recalling its previous relevant resolutions, including resolution 825 (1993), resolution 1540 (2004), resolution 1695 (2006), resolution 1718 (2006), resolution 1874 (2009), resolution 1887 (2009), resolution 2087 (2013) and resolution 2094 (2013), as well as the statements of its President of 6 October 2006 (S/PRST/2006/41), 13 April 2009 (S/PRST/2009/7) and 16 April 2012 (S/PRST/2012/13), Reaffirming that proliferation of nuclear, chemical and biological weapons, as well as their means of delivery, constitutes a threat to international peace and security, Expressing gravest concern at the nuclear test conducted by the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (“the DPRK”) on 6 January 2016 in violation of resolutions 1718 (2006), 1874 (2009), 2087 (2013) and 2094 (2013), and at the challenge such a test constitutes to the Treaty on Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (“the NPT”) and to international efforts aimed at strengthening the global regime of non-proliferation of nuclear weapons, and the danger it poses to peace and stability in the region and beyond, Underlining once again the importance that the DPRK respond to other security and humanitarian concerns of the international community, Underlining also that measures imposed by this resolution are not intended to have adverse humanitarian consequences for the civilian population DPRK, Regretting the DPRK’s diversion of financial, technical and industrial resources toward developing its nuclear weapons and ballistic missile program, and condemning its declared intent to develop nuclear weapons, Expressing deep concern at the grave hardship that the DPRK people are subjected to, Expressing great concern that the DPRK’s arms sales have generated revenues that are diverted to the pursuit of nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles while DPRK citizens have great unmet needs, Expressing serious concern that the DPRK has continued to violate relevant Security Council resolutions through repeated launches of ballistic missiles in 2014 and 2015, as well as the submarine-launched ballistic missile ejection test in 2015 and noting that all such ballistic missile activities contribute to the DPRK’s development of nuclear weapons delivery systems and increase tension in the region and beyond, Expressing continued concern that the DPRK is abusing the privileges and immunities accorded under the Vienna Conventions on Diplomatic and Consular Relations, Expressing its gravest concern that the DPRK’s ongoing nuclear-, and ballistic missile-related activities have further generated increased tension in the region and beyond, and determining that there continues to exist a clear threat to international peace and security, Acting under Chapter VII of the Charter of the United Nations, and taking measures under its Article 41,

  1. Condemns in the strongest terms the nuclear test conducted by the DPRK on 6 January 2016 in violation and flagrant disregard of the Council’s relevant resolutions, and further condemns the DPRK’s launch of 7 February 2016, which used ballistic missile technology and was in serious violation of resolutions 1718 (2006), 1874 (2009), 2087 (2013), and 2094 (2013);
  1. Reaffirms its decisions that the DPRK shall not conduct any further launches that use ballistic missile technology, nuclear tests, or any other provocation, and shall suspend all activities related to its ballistic missile program and in this context re-establish its pre-existing commitments to a moratorium on missile launches, and demands that the DPRK immediately comply fully with these obligations;
  1. Reaffirms its decisions that the DPRK shall abandon all nuclear weapons and existing nuclear programs in a complete, verifiable and irreversible manner, and immediately cease all related activities;
  1. Reaffirms its decision that the DPRK shall abandon all other existing weapons of mass destruction and ballistic missile programs in a complete, verifiable and irreversible manner;
  1. Reaffirms that, pursuant to paragraph 8 (c) of resolution 1718 (2006), all Member States shall prevent any transfers to the DPRK by their nationals or from their territories, or from the DPRK by its nationals or from its territory, of technical training, advice, services or assistance related to the provision, manufacture, maintenance or use of nuclear-related, ballistic missile-related or other weapons of mass destruction-related items, materials, equipment, goods and technology, and underscores that this provision prohibits the DPRK from engaging in any form of technical cooperation with other Member States on launches using ballistic missile technology, even if characterized as a satellite launch or space launch vehicle;
  1. Decides that the measures in paragraph 8 (a) of resolution 1718 (2006) shall also apply to all arms and related materiel, including small arms and light weapons and their related materiel, as well as to financial transactions, technical training, advice, services or assistance related to the provision, manufacture, maintenance or use of such arms and related materiel;
  1. Affirms that the obligations imposed in paragraphs 8 (a), 8 (b) and 8 (c) of resolution 1718 (2006), as extended by paragraphs 9 and 10 of resolution 1874 (2009), apply with respect to the shipment of items to or from the DPRK for repair, servicing, refurbishing, testing, reverse-engineering, and marketing, regardless of whether ownership or control is transferred, and underscores that the measures specified in paragraph 8 (e) of resolution 1718 (2006) shall also apply to any individual traveling for the purposes of carrying out the activities described in this paragraph;
  1. Decides that the measures imposed in paragraphs 8 (a) and 8 (b) of resolution 1718 (2006) shall also apply to any item, except food or medicine, if the State determines that such item could directly contribute to the development of the DPRK’s operational capabilities of its armed forces, or to exports that support or enhance the operational capabilities of armed forces of another Member State outside the DPRK, and decides also that this provision shall cease to apply to the supply, sale or transfer of an item, or its procurement, if:

(a) the State determines that such activity is exclusively for humanitarian purposes or exclusively for livelihood purposes which will not be used by DPRK individuals or entities to generate revenue, and also not related to any activity prohibited by resolutions 1718 (2006), 1874 (2009), 2087 (2013), 2094 (2013) or this resolution, provided that the State notifies the Committee in advance of such determination and also informs the Committee of measures taken to prevent the diversion of the item for such other purposes, or

(b) the Committee has determined on a case-by-case basis that a particular supply, sale or transfer would not be contrary to the objectives of resolutions 1718 (2006), 1874 (2009), 2087 (2013), 2094 (2013) or this resolution;

  1. Recalls that paragraph 9 of resolution 1874 (2009) requires States to prohibit the procurement from the DPRK of technical training, advice, services or assistance related to the provision, manufacture, maintenance or use of arms and related materiel, and clarifies that this paragraph prohibits States from engaging in the hosting of trainers, advisors, or other officials for the purpose of military-, paramilitary-or police-related training;
  2. Decides that the measures specified in paragraph 8 (d) of resolution 1718 (2006) shall apply also to the individuals and entities listed in Annex I and II of this resolution and to any individuals or entities acting on their behalf or at their direction, and to entities owned or controlled by them, including through illicit means;
  3. Decides that the measures specified in paragraph 8 (e) of resolution 1718 (2006) shall apply also to the individuals listed in Annex I of this resolution and to individuals acting on their behalf or at their direction;
  4. Affirms that “economic resources,” as referred to in paragraph 8 (d) of resolution 1718 (2006), includes assets of every kind, whether tangible or intangible, movable or immovable, actual or potential, which potentially may be used to obtain funds, goods, or services, such as vessels (including maritime vessels);
  5. Decides that if a Member State determines that a DPRK diplomat, governmental representative, or other DPRK national acting in a governmental capacity, is working on behalf or at the direction of a designated individual or entity, or of an individual or entities assisting in the evasion of sanctions or violating the provisions of resolutions 1718 (2006), 1874 (2009), 2087 (2013), 2094 (2013) or this resolution, then the Member State shall expel the individual from its territory for the purpose of repatriation to the DPRK consistent with applicable national and international law, provided that nothing in this paragraph shall impede the transit of representatives of the Government of the DPRK to the United Nations Headquarters or other UN facilities to conduct United Nations business, and decides that the provisions of this paragraph shall not apply with respect to a particular individual if: a) the presence of the individual is required for fulfillment of a judicial process, b) the presence of the individual is required exclusively for medical, safety or other humanitarian purposes, or c) the Committee has determined on a case-by-case basis that the expulsion of the individual would be contrary to the objectives of resolutions 1718 (2006), 1874 (2009), 2087 (2013), 2094 (2013) and this resolution;
  6. Decides that, if a Member State determines that an individual who is not a national of that State is working on behalf of or at the direction of a designated individual or entity or assisting the evasion of sanctions or violating the provisions of resolutions 1718 (2006), 1874 (2009), 2087 (2013), 2094 (2013) or this resolution, then Member States shall expel the individual from their territories for the purpose of repatriation to the individual’s state of nationality, consistent with applicable national and international law, unless the presence of the individual is required for fulfillment of a judicial process or exclusively for medical, safety or other humanitarian purposes, or the Committee has determined on a case-by-case basis that the expulsion of the individual would be contrary to the objectives of resolutions 1718 (2006), 1874 (2009), 2087 (2013), 2094 (2013) or this resolution, provided that nothing in this paragraph shall impede the transit of representatives of the Government of the DPRK to the United Nations Headquarters or other UN facilities to conduct United Nations business;
  7. Underscores that, as a consequence of implementing the obligations imposed in paragraph 8 (d) of resolution 1718 (2006) and paragraphs 8 and 11 of resolution 2094 (2013), all Member States shall close the representative offices of designated entities and prohibit such entities, as well as individuals or entities acting for or on their behalf, directly or indirectly, from participating in joint ventures or any other business arrangements, and underscores that if a representative of such an office is a DPRK national, then States are required to expel the individual from their territories for the purpose of repatriation to the DPRK consistent with applicable national and international law, pursuant to and consistent with paragraph 10 of resolution 2094 (2013);
  8. Notes that the DPRK frequently uses front companies, shell companies, joint ventures and complex, opaque ownership structures for the purpose of violating measures imposed in relevant Security Council resolutions, and, in this regard, directs the Committee, with the support of the Panel, to identify individuals and entities engaging in such practices and, if appropriate, designate them to be subject to the measures imposed in resolutions 1718 (2006), 1874 (2009), 2087 (2013), 2094 (2013) and this resolution;
  9. Decides that all Member States shall prevent specialized teaching or training of DPRK nationals within their territories or by their nationals of disciplines which could contribute to the DPRK’s proliferation sensitive nuclear activities or the development of nuclear weapon delivery systems, including teaching or training in advanced physics, advanced computer simulation and related computer sciences, geospatial navigation, nuclear engineering, aerospace engineering, aeronautical engineering and related disciplines;
  10. Decides that all States shall inspect the cargo within or transiting through their territory, including in their airports, seaports and free trade zones, that has originated in the DPRK, or that is destined for the DPRK, or has been brokered or facilitated by the DPRK or its nationals, or by individuals or entities acting on their behalf or at their direction, or entities owned or controlled by them, or by designated individuals or entities, or that is being transported on DPRK flagged aircraft or maritime vessels, for the purposes of ensuring that no items are transferred in violation of resolutions 1718 (2006), 1874 (2009), 2087 (2013), 2094 (2013) and this resolution, and calls upon States to implement such inspections in a manner that minimizes the impact on the transfer of cargo that the State determines is for humanitarian purposes;
  11. Decides that Member States shall prohibit their nationals and those in their territories from leasing or chartering their flagged vessels or aircraft or providing crew services to the DPRK, and decides that this prohibition shall also apply with respect to any designated individuals or entities, any other DPRK entities, any other individuals or entities whom the State determines to have assisted in the evasion of sanctions or in violating the provisions of resolutions 1718 (2006), 1874 (2009), 2087 (2013), 2094 (2013) or this resolution, any individuals or entities acting on behalf or at the direction of any of the aforementioned, and any entities owned or controlled by any of the aforementioned, calls upon Member States to de register any vessel that is owned, operated or crewed by the DPRK, further calls upon Member States not to register any such vessel that is de-registered by another Member State pursuant to this paragraph, and decides that this provision shall not apply with respect to such leasing, chartering or provision of crew services notified to the Committee in advance on a case-by-case basis accompanied by: a) information demonstrating that such activities are exclusively for livelihood purposes which will not be used by DPRK individuals or entities to generate revenue, and b) information on measures taken to prevent such activities from contributing to violations of the aforementioned resolutions;
  12. Decides that all States shall prohibit their nationals, persons subject to their jurisdiction and entities incorporated in their territory or subject to their jurisdiction from registering vessels in the DPRK, obtaining authorization for a vessel to use the DPRK flag, and from owning, leasing, operating, providing any vessel classification, certification or associated service, or insuring any vessel flagged by the DPRK, and decides that this measure shall not apply to activities notified in advance by the Committee on a case-by-case basis, following provision to the Committee of detailed information on the activities, including the names of individuals and entities involved in them, information demonstrating that such activities are exclusively for livelihood purposes which will not be used by DPRK individuals or entities to generate revenue and on measures taken to prevent such activities from contributing to violations of resolutions 1718 (2006), 1874 (2009), 2087 (2013), 2094 (2013) or this resolution;
  13. Decides that all States shall deny permission to any aircraft to take off from, land in or overfly, unless under the condition of landing for inspection, their territory, if they have information that provides reasonable grounds to believe that the aircraft contains items the supply, sale, transfer or export of which is prohibited by resolutions 1718 (2006), 1874 (2009), 2087 (2013), 2094 (2013) or this resolution, except in the case of an emergency landing, and calls upon all States, when considering whether to grant overflight permission to flights to assess known risk factors;
  14. Decides that all Member States shall prohibit the entry into their ports of any vessel if the Member State has information that provides reasonable grounds to believe the vessel is owned or controlled, directly or indirectly, by a designated individual or entity, or contains cargo the supply, sale, transfer or export of which is prohibited by resolutions 1718 (2006), 1874 (2009), 2087 (2013), 2094 (2013) or this resolution, unless entry is required in the case of emergency or in the case of return to its port of origination, or for inspection, or unless the Committee determines in advance that such entry is required for humanitarian purposes or any other purposes consistent with the objectives of this resolution;
  15. Recalls that the Committee has designated the DPRK firm Ocean Maritime Management (OMM), notes that the vessels specified in Annex III of this resolution are economic resources controlled or operated by OMM and therefore subject to the asset freeze imposed in paragraph 8 (d) of resolution 1718 (2006), and underscores that Member States are required to implement the relevant provisions of that resolution;
  16. Decides that the DPRK shall abandon all chemical and biological weapons and weapons-related programs, and shall act strictly in accordance with its obligations as a State Party to the Convention on the Prohibition of the Development, Production, or Stockpiling of Bacteriological (Biological) and Toxin Weapons and Their Destruction, and calls upon the DPRK to accede to the Convention of the Prohibition of the Development, Production, Stockpiling and Use of Chemical Weapons and Their Destruction, and then to immediately comply with its provisions;
  17. Decides to adjust the measures imposed by paragraph 8 of resolution 1718 (2006) and this resolution through the designation of additional goods, directs the Committee to undertake its tasks to this effect and to report to the Security Council within fifteen days of adoption of this resolution, and further decides that, if the Committee has not acted, then the Security Council will complete action to adjust the measures within seven days of receiving that report;
  18. Directs the Committee to review and update the items contained in S/2006/853/CORR.1 no later than sixty days from the adoption of this resolution and on an annual basis thereafter;
  19. Decides that the measures imposed in paragraphs 8 (a) and 8 (b) of resolution 1718 (2006) shall also apply to any item if the State determines that such item could contribute to the DPRK’s nuclear or ballistic missile programs or other weapons of mass destruction programs, activities prohibited by resolutions 1718 (2006), 1874 (2009), 2087 (2013), 2094 (2013), and this resolution, or to the evasion of measures imposed by resolutions 1718 (2006), 1874 (2009), 2087 (2013), 2094 (2013), and this resolution;
  20. Reaffirms paragraphs 14 through 16 of resolution 1874 (2009), and paragraph 8 of resolution 2087 (2013), and decides that these paragraphs shall apply also with respect to any items the supply, sale or transfer of which is prohibited by resolutions 1718 (2006), 1874 (2009), 2087 (2013), 2094 (2013) or this resolution identified in inspections conducted pursuant to paragraph 18 of this resolution;
  21. Decides that the DPRK shall not supply, sell or transfer, directly or indirectly, from its territory or by its nationals or using its flag vessels or aircraft, coal, iron, and iron ore, and that all States shall prohibit the procurement of such material from the DPRK by their nationals, or using their flag vessels or aircraft, and whether or not originating in the territory of the DPRK, and decides that this provision shall not apply with respect to:

(a) Coal that the procuring State confirms on the basis of credible information has originated outside the DPRK and was transported through the DPRK solely for export from the Port of Rajin (Rason), provided that the State notifies the Committee in advance and such transactions are unrelated to generating revenue for the DPRK’s nuclear or ballistic missile programs or other activities prohibited by resolutions 1718 (2006), 1874 (2009), 2087 (2013), 2094 (2013) or this resolution; and,

(b) Transactions that are determined to be exclusively for livelihood purposes and unrelated to generating revenue for the DPRK’s nuclear or ballistic missile programs or other activities prohibited by resolutions 1718 (2006), 1874 (2009), 2087 (2013), 2094 (2013) or this resolution;

  1. Decides that the DPRK shall not supply, sell or transfer, directly or indirectly, from its territory or by its nationals or using its flag vessels or aircraft, gold, titanium ore, vanadium ore, and rare earth minerals, and that all States shall prohibit the procurement of such material from the DPRK by their nationals, or using their flag vessels or aircraft, and whether or not originating in the territory of the DPRK;
  2. Decides that all States shall prevent the sale or supply, by their nationals or from their territories or using their flag vessels or aircraft, of aviation fuel, including aviation gasoline, naptha-type jet fuel, kerosene-type jet fuel, and kerosene-type rocket fuel, whether or not originating in their territory, to the territory of the DPRK, or unless the Committee has approved in advance on an exceptional case-by-case basis the transfer to the DPRK of such products for verified essential humanitarian needs, subject to specified arrangements for effective monitoring of delivery and use, and decides also that this provision shall not apply with respect to the sale or supply of aviation fuel to civilian passenger aircraft outside the DPRK exclusively for consumption during its flight to the DPRK and its return flight;
  3. Decides that the asset freeze imposed by paragraph 8 (d) of resolution 1718 (2006) shall apply to all the funds, other financial assets and economic resources outside of the DPRK that are owned or controlled, directly or indirectly, by entities of the Government of the DPRK or the Worker’s Party of Korea, or by individuals or entities acting on their behalf or at their direction, or by entities owned or controlled by them, that the State determines are associated with the DPRK’s nuclear or ballistic missile programs or other activities prohibited by resolutions 1718 (2006), 1874 (2009), 2087 (2013), 2094 (2013) or this resolution, decides further that all States except the DPRK shall ensure that any funds, financial assets or economic resources are prevented from being made available by their nationals or by any individuals or entities within their territories, to or for the benefit of such individuals or entities, or individuals or entities acting on their behalf or at their direction, or entities owned or controlled by them, and decides that these measures shall not apply with respect to funds, other financial assets and economic resources that are required to carry out activities of the DPRK’s missions to the United Nations and its specialized agencies and related organizations or other diplomatic and consular missions of the DPRK, and to any funds, other financial assets and economic resources that the Committee determines in advance on a case-by-case basis are required for the delivery of humanitarian assistance, denuclearization or any other purpose consistent with the objectives of this resolution;
  4. Decides that States shall prohibit in their territories the opening and operation of new branches, subsidiaries, and representative offices of DPRK banks, decides further that States shall prohibit financial institutions within their territories or subject to their jurisdiction from establishing new joint ventures and from taking an ownership interest in or establishing or maintaining correspondent relationships with DPRK banks, unless such transactions have been approved by the Committee in advance, and decides that States shall take the necessary measures to close such existing branches, subsidiaries and representative offices, and also to terminate such joint ventures, ownership interests and correspondent banking relationships with DPRK banks within ninety days from the adoption of this resolution;
  5. Decides that States shall prohibit financial institutions within their territories or subject to their jurisdiction from opening new representative offices or subsidiaries, branches or banking accounts in the DPRK;
  6. Decides that States shall take the necessary measures to close existing representative offices, subsidiaries or banking accounts in the DPRK within ninety days, if the State concerned has credible information that provides reasonable grounds to believe that such financial services could contribute to the DPRK’s nuclear or ballistic missile programs, or other activities prohibited by resolutions 1718 (2006), 1874 (2009), 2087 (2013), 2094 (2013) or this resolution, and decides further that this provision shall not apply if the Committee determines on a case-by-case basis that such offices, subsidiaries or accounts are required for the delivery of humanitarian assistance or the activities of diplomatic missions in the DPRK pursuant to the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations or the activities of the United Nations or its specialized agencies or related organizations, or for any other purposes consistent with resolutions 1718 (2006), 1874 (2009), 2087 (2013), 2094 (2013) or this resolution;
  7. Decides that all States shall prohibit public and private financial support from within their territories or by persons or entities subject to their jurisdiction for trade with the DPRK (including the granting of export credits, guarantees or insurance to their nationals or entities involved in such trade) where such financial support could contribute to the DPRK’s nuclear or ballistic missile programs or other activities prohibited by resolutions 1718 (2006), 1874 (2009), 2087 (2013), 2094 (2013) or this resolution, including paragraph 8;
  8. Expresses concern that transfers to the DPRK of gold may be used to evade the measures imposed in resolutions 1718 (2006), 1874 (2009), 2087 (2013), 2094 (2013) and this resolution, and clarifies that all States shall apply the measures set forth in paragraph 11 of resolution 2094 (2013) to the transfers of gold, including through gold couriers, transiting to and from the DPRK so as to ensure such transfers of gold do not contribute to the DPRK’s nuclear or ballistic missile programs, or other activities prohibited by resolutions 1718 (2006), 1874 (2009), 2087 (2013), 2094 (2013) or this resolution, or to the evasion of measures imposed by resolutions 1718 (2006), 1874 (2009), 2087 (2013), 2094 (2013) or this resolution;
  9. Recalls that the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) has called upon countries to apply enhanced due diligence and effective countermeasure to protect their jurisdictions from the DPRK’s illicit financial activity, and calls upon Member States to apply the FATF Recommendation 7, its Interpretive Note, and related guidance to effectively implement targeted financial sanctions related to proliferation;
  10. Reaffirms the measures imposed in paragraph 8 (a) (iii) of resolution 1718 (2006) regarding luxury goods, and clarifies that the term “luxury goods” includes, but is not limited to, the items specified in Annex V of this resolution;
  11. Calls upon all States to report to the Security Council within ninety days of the adoption of this resolution, and thereafter upon request by the Committee, on concrete measures they have taken in order to implement effectively the provisions of this resolution, requests the Panel of Experts established pursuant to resolution 1874 (2009), in cooperation with other UN sanctions monitoring groups, to continue its efforts to assist States in preparing and submitting such reports in a timely manner, and directs the Committee to prioritize outreach to those Member States who have never submitted implementation reports as requested by the Security Council;
  12. Calls upon all States to supply information at their disposal regarding non-compliance with the measures imposed in resolutions 1718 (2006), 1874 (2009), 2087 (2013), 2094 (2013) or this resolution;
  13. Encourages all States to examine the circumstances of previously reported sanctions violations, particularly the items seized or activities prevented pursuant to the relevant resolutions, so as to assist in ensuring full and appropriate implementation of these resolutions, especially paragraph 27 of this resolution, and notes in this regard the reporting of the Panel of Experts and the information regarding sanctions violations that the Committee has released publicly;
  14. Directs the Committee to respond effectively to violations of the measures decided in resolutions 1718 (2006), 1874 (2009), 2087 (2013), 2094 (2013), and this resolution, and, in this regard, directs the Committee to designate additional individuals and entities to be subject to the measures imposed in resolutions 1718 (2006), 1874 (2009), 2087 (2013), 2094 (2013), and this resolution;
  15. Directs the Committee to continue its efforts to assist Member States in implementing the measures imposed on the DPRK, and, in this regard, requests the Committee to draft and circulate a comprehensive compilation of all the measures imposed in resolutions 1718 (2006), 1874 (2009), 2087 (2013), 2094 (2013), and this resolution so as to facilitate Member State implementation;
  16. Directs the Committee to update the information contained on the Committee’s list of individuals and entities, including new aliases and front companies, and directs the Committee to complete this task within 45 days of the adoption of this resolution and every twelve months thereafter;
  17. Decides that the mandate of the Committee, as set out in paragraph 12 of resolution 1718 (2006), shall apply with respect to the measures imposed in resolution 1874 (2009), 2094 (2013) and this resolution;
  18. Emphasizes the importance of all States, including the DPRK, taking the necessary measures to ensure that no claim shall lie at the instance of the DPRK, or of any person or entity in the DPRK, or of persons or entities designated for measures set forth in resolutions 1718 (2006), 1874 (2009), 2087 (2013), 2094 (2013) or this resolution, or any person claiming through or for the benefit of any such person or entity, in connection with any contract or other transaction where its performance was prevented by reason of the measures imposed by this resolution or previous resolutions;
  19. Underlines that measures imposed by resolutions 1718 (2006), 1874 (2009), 2087 (2013), 2094 (2013) and this resolution are not intended to have adverse humanitarian consequences for the civilian population of the DPRK or to affect negatively those activities, including economic activities and cooperation, that are not prohibited by resolutions 1718 (2006), 1874 (2009), 2087 (2013), 2094 (2013) or this resolution, and the work of international organizations and non-governmental organization carrying out assistance and relief activities in the DPRK for the benefit of the civilian population of the DPRK;
  20. Reiterates the importance of maintaining peace and stability on the Korean Peninsula and in north-east Asia at large, and expresses its commitment to a peaceful, diplomatic and political solution to the situation and welcomes efforts by Council members as well as other States to facilitate a peaceful and comprehensive solution through dialogue and to refrain from any actions that might aggravate tensions;
  21. Reaffirms its support to the Six Party Talks, calls for their resumption, and reiterates its support for the commitments set forth in the Joint Statement of 19 September 2005 issued by China, the DPRK, Japan, the Republic of Korea, the Russian Federation, and the United States, including that the goal of the Six-Party Talks is the verifiable denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula in a peaceful manner, that the United States and the DPRK undertook to respect each other’s sovereignty and exist peacefully together, and that the Six Parties undertook to promote economic cooperation, and all other relevant commitments;
  22. Affirms that it shall keep the DPRK’s actions under continuous review and is prepared to strengthen, modify, suspend or lift the measures as may be needed in light of the DPRK’s compliance, and, in this regard, expresses its determination to take further significant measures in the event of a further DPRK nuclear test or launch;
  23. Decides to remain seized of the matter.

Annex I Travel Ban/Asset Freeze (Individuals)

1. CHOE CHUN-SIK a. Description: Choe Chun-sik was the director of the Second Academy of Natural Sciences (SANS) and was the head of the DPRK’s long-range missile program. b. AKA: Choe Chun Sik; Ch’oe Ch’un Sik c. Identifiers: DOB: 12 October 1954; Nationality: DPRK 2. CHOE SONG IL a. Description: Tanchon Commercial Bank Representative in Vietnam b. AKA: NA c. Identifiers: Passport: 472320665; Passport Date of Expiration: 26 Sep 2017; Passport: 563120356; Nationality: DPRK 3. HYON KWANG IL a. Description: Hyon Kwang Il is the Department Director for Scientific Development at the National Aerospace Development Administration. b. AKA: Hyon Gwang Il c. Identifiers: DOB: 27 May 1961; Nationality: DPRK 4. JANG BOM SU a. Description: Tanchon Commercial Bank Representative in Syria b. AKA: Jang Pom Su c. Identifiers: DOB: 15 April 1957; Nationality: DPRK 5. JANG YONG SON a. Description: Korea Mining Development Trading Corporation (KOMID) Representative in Iran b. AKA: NA c. Identifiers: DOB: 20 February 1957; Nationality: DPRK 6. JON MYONG GUK a. Description: Tanchon Commercial Bank Representative in Syria b. AKA: Cho’n Myo’ng-kuk c. Identifiers: Passport:4721202031; Passport Date of Expiration: 21 Feb 2017; Nationality: DPRK; DOB: 18 Oct 1976 7. KANG MUN KIL a. Description: Kang Mun Kil has conducted nuclear procurement activities as a representative of Namchongang, also known as Namhung. b. AKA: Jiang Wen-ji c. Identifiers: Passport: PS 472330208; Passport Date of Expiration: 4 July 2017; Nationality: DPRK 8. KANG RYONG a. Description: Korea Mining Development Trading Corporation (KOMID) Representative in Syria b. AKA: NA c. Identifiers: DOB: 21 August 1969; Nationality: DPRK 9. KIM JUNG JONG a. Description: Tanchon Commercial Bank Representative in Vietnam b. AKA: Kim Chung Chong c. Identifiers: Passport: 199421147 Passport Date of Expiration: 29 Dec 2014; Passport: 381110042, Passport Date of Expiration: 25 Jan 2016; Passport: 563210184, Passport Date of Expiration: 18 Jun 2018; DOB: 07 Nov 1966, Nationality: DPRK 10. KIM KYU a. Description: Korea Mining Development Trading Corporation (KOMID) External Affairs Officer b. AKA: NA c. Identifiers: DOB: 30 July 1968, Nationality: DPRK 11. KIM TONG MY’ONG a. Description: Kim Tong My’ong is the President of Tanchon Commercial Bank and has held various positions within Tanchon Commercial bank since at least 2002. He has also played a role in managing Amroggang’s affairs. b. AKA: Kim Chin-So’k, Kim Tong-Myong, Kim Jin-Sok; Kim, Hyok-Chol c. Identifiers: DOB: 1964; Nationality: DPRK 12. KIM YONG CHOL a. Description: KOMID Representative in Iran b. AKA: NA c. Identifiers: DOB. 18 February 1962; Nationality: DPRK 13. KO TAE HUN a. Description: Tanchon Commercial Bank Representative b. AKA: Kim Myong Gi c. Identifiers: Passport: 563120630; Passport Date of Expiration: 20 March 2018, D.O.B. 25 May 1972; Nationality: DPRK 14. RI MAN GON a. Description: Ri Man Gon is the Minister of the Munitions Industry Department. b. AKA: n/a c. Identifiers: DOB: 29 October 1945; Passport number: PO381230469; Passport Date of Expiration: 6 April 2016; Nationality: DPRK 15. RYU JIN a. Description: KOMID Representative in Syria b. AKA: NA c. Identifiers: DOB: 07 August 1965; Passport Number: 563410081; Nationality: DPRK 16. YU CHOL U a. Description: Yu Chol U is the Director of the National Aerospace Development Administration. b. AKA: n/a c. Identifiers: Nationality: DPRK List Update for Alias: Ra, Kyong-Su (KPi.008) —New AKA: Chang, Myong Ho

Annex II Asset Freeze (Entities)

1. ACADEMY OF NATIONAL DEFENSE SCIENCE a. Description: The Academy of National Defense Science is involved in the DPRK’s efforts to advance the development of its ballistic missile and nuclear weapons programs. b. AKA: n/a c. Location: Pyongyang, DPRK 2. CHONGCHONGANG SHIPPING COMPANY a. Description: The Chongchongang Shipping Company, through its vessel, the Chong Chon Gang, attempted to directly import the illicit shipment of conventional weapons and arms to the DPRK in July 2013. b. AKA: Chong Chon Gang Shipping Co. Ltd. c. Location: Address: 817 Haeun, Donghung-dong, Central District, Pyongyang, DPRK; Alternate Address: 817, Haeum, Tonghun-dong, Chung-gu, Pyongyang, DPRK; IMO Number: 5342883 3. DAEDONG CREDIT BANK (DCB) a. Description: Daedong Credit Bank has provided financial services to the Korea Mining Development Trading Corporation (KOMID) and Tanchon Commercial Bank. Since at least 2007, DCB has facilitated hundreds of financial transactions worth millions of dollars on behalf of KOMID and Tanchon Commercial Bank. In some cases, DCB has knowingly facilitated transactions by using deceptive financial practices. b. AKA: DCB; AKA: Taedong Credit Bank c. Location: Address: Suite 401, Potonggang Hotel, Ansan-Dong, Pyongchon District, Pyongyang, DPRK; Alternate Address: Ansan-dong, Potonggang Hotel, Pongchon, Pyongyang, DPRK; SWIFT: DCBK KKPY 4. HESONG TRADING COMPANY a. Description: The Korea Mining Development Trading Corporation (KOMID) is the parent company of Hesong Trading Corporation. b. Location: Pyongyang, DPRK 5. KOREA KWANGSON BANKING CORPORATION (KKBC) a. Description: KKBC provides financial services in support to Tanchon Commercial Bank and Korea Hyoksin Trading Corporation, a subordinate of the Korea Ryonbong General Corporation. Tanchon Commercial Bank has used KKBC to facilitate funds transfers likely amounting to millions of dollars, including transfers involving Korea Mining Development Corporation related funds. b. AKA: KKBC c. Address: Jungson-dong, Sungri Street, Central District, Pyongyang, DPRK 6. KOREA KWANGSONG TRADING CORPORATION a. Description: The Korea Ryongbong General Corporation is the parent company of Korea Kwangsong Trading Corporation. b. Address: Rakwon-dong, Pothonggang District, Pyongyang, DPRK 7. MINISTRY OF ATOMIC ENERGY INDUSTRY a. Description: The Ministry of Atomic Energy Industry was created in 2013 for the purpose of modernizing the DPRK’s atomic energy industry to increase the production of nuclear materials, improve their quality, and further develop an independent DPRK nuclear industry. As such, the MAEI is known to be a critical player in the DPRK’s development of nuclear weapons and is in charge of day-to-day operation of the country’s nuclear weapons program, and under it are other nuclear-related organizations. Under this ministry are a number of nuclear-related organizations and research centers, as well as two committees: an Isotope Application Committee and a Nuclear Energy Committee. The MAEI also directs a nuclear research center at Yongbyun, the site of the DPRK’s known plutonium facilities. Furthermore, in the 2015 Panel of Experts (POE) report, the POE stated that Ri Je-son, a former director of the GBAE who was designated by the Committee established pursuant to resolution 1718 (2006) in 2009 for engagement in or support for nuclear related programs, was appointed as head of the MAEI on April 9, 2014. b. AKA: MAEI c. Address: Haeun-2-dong, Pyongchon District, Pyongyang, DPRK 8. MUNITIONS INDUSTRY DEPARTMENT a. Description: The Munitions Industry Department is involved in key aspects of the DPRK’s missile program. MID is responsible for overseeing the development of the DPRK’s ballistic missiles, including the Taepo Dong-2. The MID oversees the DPRK’s weapons production and R&D programs, including the DPRK’s ballistic missile program. The Second Economic Committee and the Second Academy of Natural Sciences —also designated in August 2010 —are subordinate to the MID. The MID in recent years has worked to develop the KN08 road-mobile ICBM. b. AKA: Military Supplies Industry Department c. Location: Pyongyang, DPRK 9. NATIONAL AEROSPACE DEVELOPMENT ADMINISTRATION a. Description: NADA is involved in the DPRK’s development of space science and technology, including satellite launches and carrier rockets. b. AKA: NADA c. Location: 10. OFFICE 39 a. Description: DPRK government entity. b. AKA: Office #39; AKA: Office No. 39; AKA: Bureau 39; AKA: Central Committee Bureau 39; AKA: Third Floor; AKA: Division 39 c. Location: DPRK 11. RECONNAISSANCE GENERAL BUREAU a. Description: The Reconnaissance General Bureau is the DPRK’s premiere intelligence organization, created in early 2009 by the merger of existing intelligence organizations from the Korean Workers’ Party, the Operations Department and Office 35, and the Reconnaissance Bureau of the Korean People’s Army. The Reconnaissance General Bureau trades in conventional arms and controls the DPRK conventional arms firm Green Pine Associated Corporation. b. AKA: Chongch’al Ch’ongguk; KPA Unit 586; RGB c. Location: Address: Hyongjesan-Guyok, Pyongyang, DPRK; Alternate Address: Nungrado, Pyongyang, DPRK. 12. SECOND ECONOMIC COMMITTEE a. Description: The Second Economic Committee is involved in key aspects of the DPRK’s missile program. The Second Economic Committee is responsible for overseeing the production of the DPRK’s ballistic missiles, and directs the activities of KOMID. b. AKA: N/A c. Location: Kangdong, DPRK List Update for Alias: NAMCHONGANG TRADING CORPORATION (KPe.004) —New AKA: Namhung Trading Corporation (Resolution 2270 (2016) Adopted by the Security Council at its 7638th meeting, on 2 March 2016)

The Obama administration sanctioned two of North Korea’s most powerful government bodies as part of a broader effort to try to choke off funding to Pyongyang’s nuclear-weapons and ballistic-missile programs. The new U.S. penalties were announced today to coincide with the passage of new United Nations sanctions on North Korea, in response to the testing of a nuclear weapon in early January, its fourth overall, said senior U.S. officials. The U.S. Treasury Department blacklisted both the National Defense Commission and the Workers’ Party of Korea Central Military Commission for their alleged central roles in overseeing Pyongyang’s nuclear-weapons program. U.S. officials said North Korean leader Kim Jong Un ordered the Jan. 6 nuclear test through his position as first chairman of the National Defense Commission. “Our coordinated efforts send a clear message: the global community will not tolerate North Korea’s illicit nuclear and ballistic-missile activities, and there will be serious consequences,” Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew said in a statement. In all, the Treasury and State departments sanctioned 17 North Korean individuals and entities for their alleged roles in developing Pyongyang’s nuclear weapons. These included a dozen senior North Korean military officers and diplomats. They also included individuals allegedly involved in Pyongyang’s procurement networks. The U.S. sanctions ban the North Koreans from conducting any business in U.S. dollars or with American entities. They also freeze any assets the individuals or entities hold inside the U.S. (Jay Solomon, “U.S. Imposes Its Own New Sanctions on North Korea,” Wall Street Journal, March 2, 2016)

Chinese banks in the northern border city of Dandong have suspended the transfer of the yuan currency to North Korean banks, Chinese financial sector officials told Yonhap. Employees of the Dandong branch offices of China’s top four state-owned banks, including Agricultural Bank of China and Industrial and Commercial Bank of China, as well as six commercial banks such as China Merchants Bank, told Yonhap that the suspension came after “orders” from their headquarters. Since North Korea’s third nuclear test in 2013, the Dandong branches of the Chinese banks have halted the transfer of U.S. dollars to North Korean banks. An employee of the Dandong branch of the Agricultural Bank of China said the order came down after North Korea’s fourth nuclear test in January. (Yonhap, “Chinese Banks Halt Transfer of Yuan Currency to N. Korean Banks,” March 2, 2016)


3/3/16:
North Korea fired six short-range projectiles into the sea off its east coast, South Korean officials said, just hours after the U.N. Security Council approved the toughest sanctions on the North in two decades for its recent nuclear test and long-range rocket launch. The firings also came shortly after South Korea’s National Assembly passed its first legislation on human rights in North Korea. The North Korean projectiles, fired from the eastern coastal town of Wonsan, flew about 100 to 150 kilometers (60 to 90 miles) before landing in the sea, South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff said in a statement. It wasn’t immediately known exactly what North Korea fired, and the projectiles could be missiles, artillery or rockets, South Korea’s Defense Ministry said. Today’s firings were seen as a “low-level” response to the U.N. sanctions, with North Korea unlikely to launch any major provocation until its landmark ruling Workers’ Party convention in May, according to Yang Moo-jin, a professor at the University of North Korean Studies in Seoul. North Korea has not issued an official reaction to the new U.N. sanctions. But citizens in its capital, Pyongyang, interviewed by Associated Press said today they believe their country can fight off any sanctions. “No kind of sanctions will ever work on us, because we’ve lived under U.S. sanctions for more than half a century,” said Pyongyang resident Song Hyo Il. “And in the future, we’re going to build a powerful and prosperous country here, relying on our own development.” North Korean state media earlier warned that the imposition of new sanctions would be a “grave provocation” that shows “extreme” U.S. hostility against the country. It said the sanctions would not result in the country’s collapse or prevent it from launching more rockets. (Hyung-jin Kim, “Seoul: North Korea Fires Short-Range Projectiles into Sea,” Associated Press, March 3, 2016)

The United States does not rule out the possibility of pursuing a “parallel process” by which it holds peace treaty talks with North Korea in tandem with denuclearization negotiations, the State Department spokesman said. “We haven’t ruled out the possibility that there could sort of be some sort of parallel process here,” State Department spokesman John Kirby said at a regular briefing. “But, and this is not a small ‘but,’ there has to be denuclearization on the peninsula and work through the six party process to get there.” As a way to defuse heightened tensions on the Korean peninsula, China has proposed to pursue peace treaty talks and denuclearization negotiations with North Korea at the same time. A peace treaty replacing the 1953 armistice that halted the Korean War has long been a key demand from Pyongyang. The U.S. and South Korea have already rejected the proposal, saying denuclearization must be the priority. Today, however, Kirby appeared to be putting more of the focus on leaving open the possibility of a parallel process than on denuclearization, even though he stressed that nothing has changed in the U.S. position on the issue. “I don’t think we’re in a position to rule out possible discussions on a peace process. But we’re not going to decouple that in any way from what really needs to happen, which is complete denuclearization and adherence to the six party process,” Kirby said. When the North proposed peace treaty talks last year, Kirby said that the U.S. “made it clear that we weren’t even going to begin to have that discussion until denuclearization was factored in.” “But nothing has changed on our policy that denuclearization has to be a part of this. And the six party talks is the process and the vehicle to do that,” he said. (Yonhap, “U.S. Does Not Rule out “Parallel Process’ of Peace Treaty, Nuclear Talks with N. Korea: State Department,” Korea Times, March 4, 2016)

DoS Daily Briefing: “Q: Yesterday, John, after the resolution passed, the Chinese ambassador to the UN once again suggested that it might be a good idea to have peace talks operate in parallel alongside the Six-Party denuclearization talks. I know that you guys have spoken to this many times, but since he’s raised it again, do you have — is there any interest at all in the United — inside the Administration for this — to do this? KIRBY: Well, I think the Secretary actually addressed this when Foreign Minister Wang Yi was here last week when he talked about that we haven’t — we’re — we haven’t ruled out the possibility that there could sort of be some sort of parallel process here. But — and this is not a small “but” — there has to be denuclearization on the peninsula and work through the Six-Party process to get there. So I don’t think we’re in a position to rule out possible discussions on a peace process, but we’re not going to decouple that in any way from what really needs to happen, which is complete denuclearization and adherence to the Six-Party process moving forward. Q: So does that mean that it is not — the Administration does not rule out having talks to finally make the armistice permanent before there is a resolution to the nuclear issue? KIRBY: I didn’t say that. I said, as the Secretary said — Q: Well, that’s what I’m trying to find out. …KIRBY: The Secretary said he — that he wouldn’t rule out the possibility that there could be discussions about a peace — resolution of the armistice. Q: Discussion about a parallel track — …KIRBY: There — nothing is going to change about our belief that first and foremost there has to be denuclearization. And we — and as we talked about before when the North Koreans floated this idea, and we made it clear that we weren’t even going to begin to have that discussion until denuclearization was factored in; then it all kind of collapsed at that point. So nothing has changed about our position and our policy on denuclearization. Q: So there has to be denuclearization and then you can contemplate a peace process? KIRBY: I don’t want to get ahead of every bit of the process, but nothing’s changed on our policy that denuclearization has to be a part of this, and the Six-Party Talks is the process and the vehicle to do that. Thus far, the North has shown no willingness or even the ability to consider returning to that process, but that’s the right process, that’s the vehicle, and that’s what — that’s how we want to pursue this. (Daily Press Briefing Department of State, John Kirby, Spokesperson, March 3, 2016):


3/4/16:
KCNA: “The U.S. imperialists and their followers’ flagrant moves for political and economic pressure and military aggression on the DPRK have gone to a grave phase that can no longer be overlooked. They committed a ferocious hostility of illegalizing the DPRK’s independent rights as a sovereign state by adopting an unprecedented and gangster-like, new “resolution of sanctions” over its bolstering of self-defensive nuclear deterrent and legitimate launch of earth observation satellite Kwangmyongsong-4. All the people in the DPRK are now waiting for an order of combat to annihilate the enemy with their surging wrath at the U.S. imperialists and south Korea’s Park Geun Hye group of traitors. Under such situation, there took place a test-fire for estimating the might of controlled ordnance rocket warhead for large-caliber multiple launch rocket system of new type to be deployed in the reserve artillery units of the Korean People’s Army. Kim Jong Un, first secretary of the Workers’ Party of Korea, first chairman of the National Defense Commission of the DPRK and supreme commander of the Korean People’s Army, guided the test-fire on the spot. At an observation post he learnt in detail about the planned test-fire of new-type large-caliber multiple launch rocket system and the tactical and technological specifications of controlled ordnance rocket and gave an order on starting the test-fire. The test-fire in various ways with mine rockets, under-ground penetrating rockets and canister rockets showed that the ordnance rocket warhead, made in combination with high-energy material, has amazing destructivity and killing power. Kim Jong Un was very satisfied to see controlled ordnance rocket hitting accurately and destroying to pieces the strongly-built simulated enemy personnel, tank, artillery and vehicle shelters. He said the development of Juche weapon representing the era of the dignified Workers’ Party is a proud result from the undying feats of President Kim Il Sung and leader Kim Jong Il, who had dedicated their mental and physical efforts to the strengthening of the Juche-based defense capability, and from the Party’s policy of attaching importance to the defense science and technology. At the same time, it eloquently shows the tremendous potentials of the DPRK’s self-supporting defense industry, he added. The serial production of Korean-style large-caliber multiple launch rocket system of new type helps further strengthen the striking power of the Korean People’s Army qualitatively, he said with satisfaction. The situation has reached a very dangerous phase that can no longer be neglected as the enemies are intent on such last-ditch attempt as “beheading operation” and “collapse of social system” while working hard to violate the dignity and sovereignty of the DPRK and its right to existence, he said, adding: Now is the time for us to convert our mode of military counteraction toward the enemies into a preemptive attack one in every aspect. It is a very foolish act for Park Geun Hye to cry out for “preemptive attack” while recklessly beefing up the armed forces in league with the U.S. scoundrels, but her hysteria will precipitate only her ruin in the long run, he noted. He said that the DPRK would see what sophism the enemies, seeking to deprive it of the independent right to use space for peaceful purposes, would spout to mislead public opinion over the test-fire of its new weapons system held today, with their large-scale joint military exercises against it ahead. He stressed that the national defense sector should deploy at an early date new-type large-caliber multiple launch rocket system and other recently- developed strike weapons in the operation areas of the Supreme Command so as not to allow the enemies to sleep in peace till the moment they meet their final end in their land. The only way for defending the sovereignty of our nation and its right to existence under the present extreme situation is to bolster up nuclear force both in quality and quantity and keep balance of forces, he said, stressing the need to get the nuclear warheads deployed for national defense always on standby so as to be fired any moment. He expressed belief that the officials, scientists and technicians engaged in the defense science would steadily develop new-type ultra-modern strike arms and equipment, make fresh leaping progress in the strengthening of military capability this year greeting the Seventh Congress of the WPK and thus consolidate the country’s defense capability as firm as a rock. He was accompanied by Choe Ryong Hae, secretary of the C.C., WPK, Hong Yong Chil and Kim Jong Sik, vice department directors of the C.C., WPK, and Army Colonel General Yun Tong Hyon, vice-minister of the People’s Armed Forces.” (KCNA, “Kim Jong Un Guides Test-Fire of New Multiple-Launch Rocket System,” March 4, 2016)

DPRK FoMin spokesman’s statement: “The U.S. fabricated another “resolution on sanctions” by abusing the UNSC, while finding fault with the DPRK’s H-bomb test and satellite launch. The “resolution” unprecedented in its viciousness and illegality is a brigandish product which can never be justified. If the access to nuclear weapons is to be called into question, the U.S., the first country in the world which had access to nuclear weapons and the only user of them, should be done so and if any fault is to be found with the DPRK’s access to nuclear weapons, it is imperative to pull up the U.S. over the hostile policy and nuclear threat toward the DPRK for which it is responsible. The DPRK’s access to nuclear weapons is an unavoidable option for self-defense made by it as the U.S., the world biggest nuclear weapons state and the only user of the nuclear weapons, designated the dignified DPRK as an “axis of evil” and target of a preemptive nuclear strike and has persistently escalated the hostile moves and nuclear threats to the DPRK by introducing various kinds of lethal hardware for a nuclear war. The DPRK’s H-bomb test and satellite launch are being termed a breach of the previous “resolutions” of the UNSC but, in essence, those “resolutions” are a product of high-handedness practiced beyond the mandate of the UNSC. If the UNSC has the mandate to ban an individual country from conducting a nuclear test, what does the NPT exist for and what is the nuclear test ban treaty necessary for? As for the satellite launch, it is the legitimate right of a sovereign state. The DPRK shaped the 5-year program for national aerospace development through the legitimate exercise of the independent right recognized by international law and according to it successfully launched earth observation satellite Kwangmyongsong-4 which is now under normal operation. Where in the UN Charter is the mandate investing the UNSC with the right to deprive an individual UN member nation of the right to use space for peaceful purposes, a right specified in international law, stipulated? If the DPRK’s satellite launch is to be found fault with, it is necessary to call into question all countries that launched satellites including the U.S. The U.S., preoccupied with the hostility toward the DPRK, went so crude as not to hesitate to devise “luxury goods” as embargo items in a bid to prohibit the DPRK from importing even sports apparatuses such as ski resort facilities which have nothing to do with the development of weaponry. Underlying it is a vicious hostile purpose and nature against human rights aimed to arrest happy laughs of people from being heard from such cultural recreation grounds as the Masikryong Ski Resort in the DPRK and to prevent its people from enjoying highly civilized socialist life, the promise the Workers’ Party of Korea made to them, and, furthermore, to bring down the social system of the DPRK. The DPRK bitterly denounces and totally rejects all “resolutions” against it including the recent “resolution”, which are being misused for sinister political purpose of a big power in wanton violation of the independent right, right to development and right to existence of the sovereign state, as the criminal documents devoid of impartiality, legitimacy and morality. Many member nations of the United Nations, small countries, in particular, are getting increasingly vocal in their call for the democratic reform of the UN Security Council the most undemocratic and unfair old structure and nature of which are still left intact within the UN machinery. And they are expressing their protest by ignoring unreasonable resolutions of the UNSC. The DPRK, a country that covered the path of self-reliance and self-development in face of the U.S. sanctions and blockade, recently took the path it should have taken, while being fully aware that the U.S. would slap sanctions again. The DPRK’s self-development-first principle is the strength of the courageous people who emerged as a H-bomb state and satellite launching state by dint of its indigenous wisdom and technology with firm belief in their own efforts despite the U.S. ceaseless hostile policy and sanctions that lasted for more than seven decades. It is a serious miscalculation to think that sanctions would work on the DPRK. The DPRK’s bolstering up of the nuclear deterrent is an exercise of the just right to self-defense which should be done constantly as long as the U.S. persists in its hostile policy, and the DPRK’s satellite launch is the work for space development pursuant to the legitimate right of a sovereign state which should be done ceaselessly forever irrelevant to the U.S. hostile policy whose termination is still up in the air. The world will soon witness more steps and actions to be taken by the DPRK on its path of successfully implementing the line of simultaneously developing the two fronts. The U.S. will be wholly responsible for the total failure of the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula as it refused to the last the abandonment of its hostile policy toward the DPRK.” (KCNA, “DPRK Foreign Ministry Spokesman Rejects UNSC ‘Resolution on Sanctions,’” March 4, 2016)

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un ordered his country to be ready to use its nuclear weapons at any time and the military to be in “pre-emptive attack” mode in the face of growing threats from its enemies. The comments, carried by KCNA news agency, marked a further escalation of tension on the Korean peninsula after the U.N. Security Council imposed harsh new sanctions on the isolated state for its nuclear program. Military experts doubt it has yet developed the capability to fire a long-range missile with a miniaturized warhead to deliver a nuclear weapon as far as the United States. Kim made the comments as he supervised military exercises involving newly developed rocket launchers, KCNA reported. It did not mention the date of the drills but said the new weapons had South Korea within range. Kim criticized South Korean President Park Geun-hye in his first direct published mention of her by name for acting “in league with the U.S. scoundrels,” adding, “her hysteria will precipitate only her ruin in the long run,” KCNA said. A spokesman for South Korea’s Unification Ministry, which handles relations with the North, said Kim’s comments were not helpful and may have been intended for the domestic audience, to boost morale in the face of the new U.N. sanctions. Responding to the report, a U.S. Defense Department spokesman, Commander Bill Urban, said, “We urge North Korea to refrain from provocative actions that aggravate tensions and instead focus on fulfilling its international obligations and commitments.” Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei said that given the sensitive and complex situation on the Korean peninsula, China hoped the parties would maintain restraint, and “be careful in their words and actions, and not take any actions that would exacerbate tensions in this situation.” Later today, North Korea rejected the Security Council resolution as a “criminal act” masterminded by the United States and vowed to continue boosting its nuclear deterrent and move forward on the path to become a “satellite superpower.” “Our response will involve the full use of various means and tools including a strong and ruthless physical response,” KCNA quoted an unnamed government spokesman as saying. 38 North, which monitors North Korea, said recent commercial satellite imagery showed new activity in the isolated country, including a convoy of trucks at its satellite launch station that could be preparations for a rocket-engine test. Yesterday, South Korean President Park repeated a warning to the North to abandon its nuclear ambitions and said she would work to “end tyranny” by its leader. They were the toughest-ever comments against Pyongyang by Park, whose recent hard line against the North is a shift from her earlier policy of “trustpolitik” that focused on trying to engage in dialogue. Rodong Sinmun today carried three pages of a report and photographs of leader Kim supervising the rocket drills. It also ran a full-page commentary insulting Park as “a wicked woman who does everything evil against the compatriots in the North.” (Jack Kim, “North Korea Leader Tells Military to Be Ready to Use Nuclear Weapons,” Reuters, March 4, 2016)

Seoul and Washington officially launched talks on the deployment of the U.S.-led Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) system in South Korea, a bolstering of their joint missile defense posture that has been fiercely protested by some neighboring countries. The two sides signed a “term of reference” agreement in the morning and then convened the first meeting of a joint working group to discuss the details of the placement of the antiballistic missile defense system in South Korea, according to the Ministry of National Defense. Initially, signing of the joint agreement was set for February 23 but was delayed at the last minute in the midst of testy negotiations between China and the United States in Washington on a United Nations Security Council resolution calling for the strongest sanctions against North Korea in 20 years. The agreement was signed between Yoo Jeh-seung, deputy minister for policy at the Defense Ministry, and Lt. Gen. Thomas Vandal, commander of the U.S. Forces Korea’s Eighth Army, in Seoul at 10 a.m., to set the guidelines for the talks. “The Korea-U.S. alliance, as a part of its efforts to develop its missile defense posture, will go forward with discussions on the possibility of the deployment of the THAAD system, which will be operated by the U.S. Forces Korea,” said Na Seung-yong, a deputy spokesman of the Defense Ministry. A Defense Ministry official admitted the wording, “the possibility of the deployment of THAAD” took into consideration “opposition from China, who cooperated in the adoption of the UN sanctions resolution on North Korea.” The official said, “The South Korean Defense Ministry’s position is that because of its outstanding military usefulness, the quicker the deployment of THAAD, the better it is.” Secretary of State John Kerry said after talks with Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi last week that Washington was “not hungry or anxious to deploy THAAD,” downplaying the urgency of its deployment in South Korea. And Adm. Harry Harris, head of the U.S. Navy’s Pacific Command, said on February 25 that the decision to start discussions on the placement of THAAD “is not necessarily a decision to do it, not yet.” Maj. Gen. Jang Kyung-soo, head of the Defense Ministry’s Policy Planning Bureau, and U.S. Forces Korea Maj. Gen. Robert Hedelund led the joint working group talks. It is expected that the joint working group made up of around 10 military, legal and foreign affairs experts will discuss the location of the battery, the timing of its placement, safety and environmental concerns. The cost of one THAAD battery comprising 48 interceptors, six truck-mounted launchers, a fire control and communications unit and an AN/TPY-2 radar is around 1 trillion won ($831 million), according to a defense official. However, additional interceptor missiles could raise the cost to 1.5 trillion won. (Sarah Kim and Jeong Yong-soo, “Postponed Talks on THAAD Finally Get off the Ground,” JoongAng Ilbo, March 5, 2016)

Jeffrey Lewis: “On Friday, March 4, North Korea showed off [1] a new “large-caliber” artillery rocket system. In this context, large-caliber probably means between 300-400 mm. North Korea appears to have tested the system from its coastal test range at Wonsan, with the projectiles flying about 150 km . Although Kim Jong Un watched a number of tests of different kinds of conventional warheads, the North Korean statement on the weapon described the system as one of a series of new strike capabilities under development. It also talks about the importance of increasing the quantity and quality of North Korea’s nuclear weapons, implying—but not asserting directly—the system might eventually be nuclear armed. There have been a number of press reports in recent years about North Korea’s development of a new, large-caliber artillery weapon. The pictures released in North Korea’s Rodong Sinmun24 in total—reveal a number of details. The launch vehicle itself appears to be Chinese. Its cab is a perfect match for a 122 mm rocket artillery system produced by Sichuan Aerospace in China. The same vehicle appeared in an October 2015 parade honoring the 70th Anniversary of the Workers’ Party of Korea, carrying smaller artillery tubes, but did not attract notice at the time. The Chinese system was first shown at a defense exhibition in November 2006, which suggests it may have been exported after that date and may represent a violation of UN sanctions. As of October 2006, UN Security Council Resolution 1718 prohibited the export to North Korea of most kinds of conventional weapons, including large-caliber artillery systems (defined as greater than 100 mm). In 2009, UNSCR 1874 widened the ban to cover all arms exports. The cab and chassis appear to be marketed for commercial uses [7], raising the possibility that China will deny it knew the end use of the trucks as it did with the launch vehicle for the KN-08 road mobile ICBM in 2012.The UN Panel of Experts will have to seek clarification regarding what precisely China exported to North Korea and when. Each launcher carries eight rockets. Although North Korea describes them only as “large-caliber,” they appear similar to other rockets such as Russia’s Bm-30, Pakistan’s Hatf-9 (Nasr), and China’s SY-300, which would suggest a size of about 300-400 mm in diameter. This is not to say that any of these rockets are identical, merely that they appear similar in design. Finally, the launch appears to have occurred out of Wonsan, at the test site we geolocated in 2014, with the rockets hitting a target on an uninhabited islet about 150 km away. This would be consistent with the upper-end of range estimates for large-caliber artillery rockets. North Korea’s announcement emphasized the importance of developing a range of strike options to hold targets in South Korea at risk. Longer-range artillery allows North Korea to deploy the new systems out of range of South Korean and US artillery rockets, reducing their vulnerability to counter-battery fire. One often hears that North Korea’s artillery could easily destroy Seoul, but more careful estimates of the number, type and deployment of existing North Korean artillery suggests that the US and ROK artillery fire would quickly silence North Korea’s existing artillery forces. Longer-range North Korean artillery may restore some of this threat. Rocket artillery is also difficult to address with missile defenses, both because of the low-engagement altitudes and the potential volume of fire. In response to the most recent North Korea space launch, Seoul announced that it was negotiating the deployment of US Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) missile defenses in Korea. While systems like THAAD would provide an additional layer of defense against Scud ballistic missiles, they would provide no capability to defend Seoul against North Korea’s rocket artillery. In recent years, South Korea has tested new ballistic and cruise missiles with precision-strike and earth-penetrating capabilities—developments that have alarmed the North Korean leadership. In turn, the North Koreans have accused South Korea and the US of pursuing a strategy of “beheading,” which we would normally call a “decapitation strike.” The presence of long-range artillery that is relatively safe from counterbattery fire and not liable to be intercepted by missile defenses may help restore confidence in North Korea that it can hold targets in Seoul at risk during a crisis. The North Korean statement only hints at the possibility the system will be nuclear-armed, but it is perhaps worth considering the plausibility of the idea and its potential implications. It is unclear whether North Korea can develop a nuclear warhead small enough for the new artillery system. Pyongyang has conducted four nuclear tests, but it is generally thought that the purpose of these tests has been to develop an implosion-type device that weighs a few hundred kilograms. Such a warhead would probably be about 60 centimeters in diameter and thus too large for the new artillery system. Pakistan has asserted that it deploys small nuclear weapons for the Hatf-9 (Nasr) artillery system. The Nasr, according to some estimates, is approximately 360 mm in diameter. That would allow only for a relatively small nuclear weapon. Based on design information that appeared in the public domain following the collapse in 2002 of the nuclear smuggling network run by A.Q. Khan—the father of Pakistan’s nuclear bomb—many analysts think the most modern Pakistani design is approximately 60 centimeters in diameter. If the Nasr has a nuclear warhead, it must be considerably smaller. One possibility is that Pakistan or North Korea might attempt to develop an artillery shell similar to early US nuclear artillery projectiles such as the W-9 shell, which was 280 mm in diameter. The W-9 was a gun-type device that used uranium. There is no evidence to suggest that Pakistan or North Korea have developed such a device, although it would be technically feasible. North Korea might choose to build nuclear-armed artillery for a number of reasons. Nuclear-armed artillery would pose a serious threat to Seoul that would be difficult for the United States and South Korea to completely eliminate. And North Korea, like Pakistan, might see nuclear artillery rockets as a possible way to compensate for its conventional inferiority, particularly if US and South Korean armored units were racing northward. Nuclear-armed artillery would pose real stability challenges for the Korean Peninsula. North Korea may view nuclear-armed artillery as an effective deterrent to South Korean military action, particularly to South Korean threats to decapitate the North Korean leadership. But this deterrence may come at a cost. The decision in the United States to deploy nuclear-armed artillery was accompanied by a decision to pre-delegate the authority to use nuclear weapons to commanders in the field. The possibility that conventional war might escalate to a nuclear war, and that the decision might not be fully under the control of North Korea’s leadership, is what Thomas Schelling termed “the threat that leaves something to chance.” This also, however, creates the prospect of inadvertent to uncontrollable escalation. Moreover, South Korea’s leaders may be more alarmed than deterred by such a threat. Seoul might reasonably conclude that the possibility of inadvertent escalation is yet one more reason in a crisis to attempt to decapitate the North Korean leadership in the hope that lower-level North Korean commanders would not use nuclear weapons. Although the point of pre-delegating nuclear use to local commanders would be to create a sort of “dead hand” that will retaliate even after the Kim family is gone, South Korean leaders might gamble that the will of the North Korean army will dissipate without the Kims in charge. The appearance of a new long-range artillery system that is specifically linked to North Korean fears about decapitation strikes deserves our attention, even if the possibility of nuclear armament is only hinted at. Over the past few years, both North and South Korea have invested in new artillery and missile systems in what is clearly an action-reaction cycle. The development of these capabilities has been described in terms of doctrines in both countries that raise questions about whether future crises on the peninsula will be stable. The new system is a wake-up call that stability on the Korean peninsula is not something that will happen naturally. The bottom line is that far more attention needs to be paid to North Korea’s evolving nuclear doctrine, on the one hand, and South Korea’s development of conventional doctrines that involve preemption and decapitation on the other.” (Jeffrey Lewis, “More Rockets in Kim Jong Un’s Pockets: North Korea tests a New Artillery System,” 38North, March 7, 2016)


3/6/16:
Rodong Sinmun commentary: “The U.S. and the south Korean puppet forces are mulling staging the largest-ever aggressive Key Resolve and Foul Eagle 16 joint military exercises, not content with spearheading the fabrication of the new brigandish UN “resolution on sanctions” under the pretext of the DPRK’s bolstering of nuclear deterrent for self-defense and its legitimate satellite launch. …The DPRK’s military counteraction is inevitable now that the U.S. imperialists’ brigandish aggressive ambition and the puppet warmongers’ attempt at invading the north have become obvious. It is the determination and will of the DPRK to wipe out by the force of justice the ferocious aggressors and warmongers resorting to the force of injustice bereft of common sense and reason. …To root out the source of aggression and provocation on this land is the DPRK’s exercise of the legitimate right to defend the sovereignty of the country and the peace in the Korean Peninsula. The powerful ultra-modern offensive means of the DPRK’s revolutionary armed forces have embarked upon carrying out the preemptive operation to thoroughly contain in advance the special operation force and equipment of the enemies involved in the “beheading operation” and “high-density strike” in case they shows a slight sign of movement. No force on earth can deter the service personnel and people of the DPRK from making a clean sweep of the warmongers to the last man and winning the final victory of the great war for national reunification. A preemptive attack is not a monopoly of the U.S., the commentary notes, warning that if the U.S. recklessly dares attack the DPRK, the former will face such catastrophic disaster as meeting its final doom in face of the latter’s nuclear strike of justice.” (KCNA, “Preemptive Attack Is Not Monopoly of U.S.: Rodong Sinmun,” March 6, 2016)

The Philippines will become the first country to enforce tough new United Nations sanctions on North Korea when it begins formal procedures tomorrow to impound a cargo vessel linked to the reclusive nation, a government spokesman said. The Jin Teng, which is suspected of being a North Korean ship, arrived Thursday at Subic Bay, a commercial port about 50 miles northwest of Manila. It will be impounded, its crew will be deported, and it will most likely be inspected by a team from the United Nations, said Charles Jose, a spokesman for the Philippine Department of Foreign Affairs. The vessel is registered and flagged under multiple countries, but it is one of 31 listed as being owned by North Korea, Philippine officials said, and therefore subject to seizure under the new sanctions. “The world is concerned over North Korea’s nuclear weapons program, and as a member of the U.N., the Philippines has to do its part to enforce the sanctions,” Manuel L. Quezon III, a member of the president’s communications team, said on a government-run radio station yesterday. The 4,355-ton vessel had a crew of 21 North Korean citizens and was in the Philippines to unload a shipment of agricultural byproducts often used as livestock feed. The Philippine Coast Guard searched the vessel on Friday and found no prohibited items. Only minor safety violations, including missing fire hoses and exposed wiring, were discovered. The vessel’s last port of call was in Indonesia, and it was going to proceed to Zhanjiang Port in China after unloading in Subic Bay, Philippine Coast Guard officials said Saturday. It was not scheduled to pick up any cargo in the Philippines. (Floyd Whaley, “Philippines Will Impound Ship Linked to North Korea,” New York Times, March 7, 2016, p. A-3)


3/7/16:
NDC statement “in connection with the fact that the U.S. imperialists and south Korean puppet forces decided to kick off the largest-ever joint military exercises Key Resolve and Foal Eagle 16 today. They are claiming that the joint military exercises amount to “a crucial pressure” pursuant to the unreasonable UN “resolution on sanctions” faked up by them under the groundless pretext of the DPRK’s self-defensive first H-bomb test and its legitimate launch of earth observation satellite Kwangmyongsong-4. The enemies, seized with extreme frenzy for invading the north, threw off even the deceptive mask “annual and “defensive ones.” The situation is getting ever more serious as the enemies decided to stage the Key Resolve and Foal Eagle 16 joint military exercises by the way of fighting an actual war involving the thrice-cursed “beheading operation” aimed to remove the supreme headquarters of the DPRK and “bring down its social system” pursuant to the extremely adventurous OPLAN 5015. The statement solemnly clarified the following principled stand as regards the fact that the prevailing situation reached a dangerous phase which should not be overlooked any longer: 1. The army and people of the DPRK will launch an all-out offensive to decisively counter the U.S. and its followers’ hysteric nuclear war moves to plunge the space of the DPRK’s existence into a nuclear disaster, not content with wantonly encroaching upon the sovereignty and security of the dignified DPRK. Tragedy is that the U.S. and its followers have not yet realized how the illegal and outrageous “sanctions” make this land boil like a crucible of battle for wiping out the enemies and into what great fury their war frenzy for invading the north with nuclear threat is lashing all the service personnel and people of the DPRK. As the enemies are foolishly resorting to military means including nuclear attack on the DPRK, all its service personnel and people will turn out in the general offensive to fully demonstrate the tremendous military muscle with nuclear force as pivot which they have built under the slogan of wiping out the U.S. imperialists and their lackeys to the last man. 2. The army and people of the DPRK will take military counteraction for preemptive attack so that they may deal merciless deadly blows at the enemies under the grave situation where they are working with bloodshot eyes to infringe upon the dignity, sovereignty and vital rights of the DPRK. We have the Juche-based mode of military counteraction to defend the socialist country as firm as a rock from any aggression and war in the world. As the joint military exercises to be staged by the enemies are regarded as the most undisguised nuclear war drills aimed to infringe upon the sovereignty of the DPRK, its military counteraction will be more preemptive and offensive nuclear strike to cope with them. The indiscriminate nuclear strike to be made by the DPRK will clearly show those keen on aggression and war the military mettle of Juche Korea. Preemptive nuclear strike of justice is to be made in the order specified by the Supreme Command of the Korean People’s Army in its crucial statement. 3. If the enemies dare kick off even the slightest military action while vociferating about “beheading operation” aimed to remove the supreme headquarters of the DPRK and “bring down its social system”, its army and people will not miss the opportunity but realize the greatest desire of the Korean nation through a sacred war of justice for reunification. We have a military operation plan of our style to liberate south Korea and strike the U.S. mainland ratified by our dignified supreme headquarters. Pursuant to it, offensive means have been deployed to put major strike targets in the operation theatres of south Korea within the firing range and the powerful nuclear strike means targeting the U.S. imperialist aggressor forces bases in the Asia-Pacific region and the U.S. mainland are always ready to fire. If we push the buttons to annihilate the enemies even right now, all bases of provocations will be reduced to seas in flames and ashes in a moment and the U.S. imperialists’ nuclear strategic means on which the puppet forces depend as “saviors” turn into piles of scrap iron whether they are in the air, seas and land. The time will prove how the crime-woven history of the U.S. imperialists who have grown corpulent through aggression and war will come to an end and how the Park Geun Hye group’s disgraceful remaining days will meet a miserable doom as it is keen on the confrontation with the fellow countrymen in the north. The army and people of the DPRK will make the gunfire of provocateurs in the reckless war of aggression sound as a sad dirge.” (KCNA, “DPRK National Defense Commission Warns of Military Counter-Action for Preemptive Strike,” March 7, 2016)

South Korea and the United States will launch their largest-ever joint exercise this week to warn North Korea against further provocations, a South Korean military official said. The Key Resolve and Foal Eagle exercises running from March 7 through April 30 will involve more than 300,000 South Korean and 15,000 U.S. troops and simulate previously unattempted strategies. The Key Resolve portion of the exercise will include OPLAN 5015, which aims to remove the North’s weapons of mass destruction and prepare the allied troops for a pre-emptive strike in the event of a North Korean attack. “OPLAN 5015 was included in the Ulchi-Freedom Guardian (UFG) exercise last year, but this is the first time for it to be carried out in a Key Resolve exercise,” another South Korean military official said. The UFG is another combined military exercise conducted by South Korea and the U.S. Meanwhile, this year’s Ssangyong exercise will also be the largest ever, involving more than 5,000 South Korean marine and Navy personnel, 7,000 U.S. marine troops and five maritime prepositioning ships. It runs from Monday to March 18. During the exercise period, the allies will strengthen their monitoring of the North for any signs of pre-emptive attack. “We will carry out these exercises while keeping tabs on signs of North Korean provocations,” a South Korean official said. “If the North provokes us during this exercise, the U.S. and our troops will retaliate with an attack ten-fold stronger.” The warning was made after North Korean leader Kim Jong-un ordered his military to be on standby for pre-emptive nuclear strikes earlier this week. North Korea continued its bellicose rhetoric, threatening to “demolish” the U.S. mainland in case of provocations. “Our targets are the U.S. bases in South Korea and the rest of the Asia-Pacific region as well as the U.S. mainland,” reads Rodong Sinmun. “We have state-of-the-art weapons that no country in the world has previously possessed and that can bombard the U.S. in any way we want.” Meanwhile, South Korea and the U.S. say the North lacks evidence to back up its claimed possession of a nuclear arsenal. “We can’t determine the whereabouts of the nuclear weapons North Korea claims to have placed on combat readiness,” a South Korean official said. “They may have created a prototype, but we suspect they may just be blackmailing us.” (Yonhap, “S. Korea, U.S. to Kick off Largest-Ever Joint Exercise,” March 6, 2016) The United States and South Korea kicked off major military exercises, including rehearsals of surgical strikes on North Korea’s main nuclear and missile facilities and “decapitation raids” by special forces targeting the North’s leadership. The drills always elicit an angry response from Pyongyang, but Monday’s statement was particularly ferocious, accusing the United States and South Korea of planning a “beheading operation” aimed at removing Kim Jong Un’s regime. The North Korean army and people “will take military counteraction for preemptive attack so that they may deal merciless deadly blows at the enemies,” the North’s powerful National Defense Commission said in a statement. About 17,000 American forces and 300,000 South Korean personnel — a one-third increase from last spring’s drills — will take part in 11 days of computer-simulated training and eight weeks of field exercises, which will involve ground, air, naval and special operations services. The exercises will revolve around a wartime plan, OPLAN 5015, adopted by South Korea and the United States last year. The plan has not been made public but, according to reports in the South Korean media, includes a contingency for surgical strikes against the North’s nuclear weapons and missile facilities, as well as “decapitation” raids to take out North Korea’s leaders. JoongAng Ilbo reported that Kim Jong Un would be among them. The joint forces will also run through their new “4D” operational plan, which details the allies’ preemptive military operations to detect, disrupt, destroy and defend against North Korea’s nuclear and missile arsenal, the Yonhap News Agency reported. “The focus of the exercises will be on hitting North Korea’s key facilities precisely,” a military official told the wire service. Christopher Bush, a spokesman for U.S. Forces Korea, declined to comment on the reports. “Alliance operational plans are classified, and we aren’t authorized to discuss them for operations security reasons,” he said. USFK said in a statement that it had informed the North’s Korean People’s Army — through the U.N. Command, which controls the demilitarized zone between the two Koreas — about the exercise dates and “the non-provocative nature of this training.” But North Korea apparently did not see it this way. “We have a military operation plan of our style to liberate south Korea and strike the U.S. mainland ratified by our dignified supreme headquarters,” the North’s National Defense Commission said in its statement, carried by KCNA. It said it had deployed “offensive means” to strike South Korea and “U.S. imperialist aggressor forces bases in the Asia-Pacific region and the U.S. mainland.” “If we push the buttons to annihilate the enemies even right now, all bases of provocations will be reduced to seas in flames and ashes in a moment,” the commission said. North Korea is particularly sensitive to suggestions of attacks on Kim — as the furor surrounding the 2014 Hollywood film “The Interview” showed — and it has a habit of making threats on which it cannot follow through. Last week, Kim ordered his military to be ready to use its nuclear weapons at any time, saying they were needed, given the “ferocious hostility” of new “gangster-like” sanctions imposed on Pyongyang. The threats issued today were “absolutely not credible,” said Daniel Pinkston, a former Korean linguist with the U.S. Air Force who teaches at Troy University’s campus in Seoul. “They would trigger everything North Korea wants to avoid, which is their absolute destruction in retaliatory attacks,” Pinkston said. “Second, if you are going to launch an attack against a much stronger adversary, why would you telegraph that? You’d want the element of surprise.” Much of North Korea’s rhetoric is for domestic consumption, as Kim tries to burnish his leadership credentials ahead of a much-anticipated Workers’ Party congress in May, the first in 36 years. Kim, however, has shown himself willing to use the means available to him to express his anger. Last year, during a period of increased tensions with South Korea, he ordered his military onto a war footing, sending army units to the demilitarized zone and submarines out of port. South Korea and the United States said they will increase monitoring of North Korea during the exercises. “We will carry out these exercises while keeping tabs on signs of North Korean provocations,” a South Korean official told reporters. “If the North provokes us during this exercise, the U.S. and our troops will retaliate with an attack ten-fold stronger.” (Anna Fifield, “In Drills, U.S., S. Korea Practice Striking North’s Nuclear Plants, Leaders,” Washington Post, March 7, 2016)

American diplomatic experts believe their country has changed its longstanding position about signing a peace treaty with North Korea — despite their government’s repeated denials. An unsuccessful attempt to hold a secret meeting before the North’s Jan. 6 nuclear test suggests that the United States is shifting from its hardline stance. The talks did not take place because North Korea declined the former’s proposal to discuss its atomic weapons program; nevertheless, the failed attempt sparked speculation that the United States is stepping back from its denuclearization precondition for peace treaty talks with the North. “It looks like the administration realizes that refusing to engage the North is a dead end policy. It still wants to set denuclearization at the center of U.S. policy, but it is showing more flexibility in addressing the North,” said Doug Bandow, a senior fellow at the Cato Institute. U.S. Naval War College professor Terence Roehrig echoed Bandow’s view. “The apparent change has come in making denuclearization a precondition. It is no doubt that the U.S. administration also realizes that North Korea will not voluntarily relinquish its nuclear weapons so that holding out denuclearization as a precondition means there will be no dialogue whatsoever,” he said. In response to a Wall Street Journal report last month about the United States’ attempt to engage the repressive state, Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs Daniel Russel told reporters in Seoul on February 26 that the country’s original position has not changed. However, the United States is still showing signs that it could hold talks with North Korea about the peace treaty simultaneous with denuclearization negotiations, which amounts to Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi’s proposal to his U.S. counterpart John Kerry last month. Leon Sigal, director of the Northeast Asia Cooperative Security Project at the Social Science Research Council in New York, said the U.S. government is reverting to the stance it agreed to on the September 19, 2005 six-party joint statement that committed the “directly related parties” to “negotiate a permanent peace regime on the Korean Peninsula,” parallel to negotiations on the North’s denuclearization and political and economic normalization. “It recognizes the reality that denuclearization cannot advance very far without a peace process in Korea that addresses North Korea’s security concerns,” he said. While negotiating on new international sanctions on North Korea for its recent nuclear test and long-range rocket launch, China proposed holding peace treaty negotiations with North Korea simultaneously with denuclearization talks as a way to defuse the heightened tensions on the peninsula. Even after the U.N. adoption of the new resolution, the Chinese side continues to raise the issue. “China does not want a nuclear North Korea any more than anyone else. It also wants a stable North Korea. A peace treaty would recognize North Korea’s right to exist — which the U.S. and South Korea do not currently accept — and remove the need for its nukes,” said Robert Kelly, an international relations professor at Pusan National University. “A peace deal strongly suits Chinese interests here, and I expect they will emphasize it.” In addition, given that China cooperated with the U.S. push for the toughest resolution thus far, China is expected to continue to call for a peace treaty. “The U.S. shift in its stance is also meeting China’s condition for supporting U.N. Security Council sanctions,” Sigal said. Meanwhile, South Korea may not have any say in the proposed peace treaty talks. While Washington and Beijing are leaning toward peace treaty talks, Seoul still calls for Pyongyang’s denuclearization before such talks. As such, some experts speculate it will be excluded from possible discussions. “I think that President Park Geun-hye has rendered South Korea irrelevant to talks to North Korea for the foreseeable future due to her rupture with past policy and the Kaesong decision, leaving the issue to the big powers to resolve,” said Peter Hayes, the executive director of the U.S.-based Nautilus Institute for Security and Sustainability. “This is the nature of international politics. Seoul has a history of engaging with North Korea behind the back of America, so it shouldn’t be that surprising that the U.S. would do the same,” said Van Jackson, a professor at the Asia-Pacific Center for Security Studies. “It’s just how business is done. When it’s possible to simultaneously consult with allies, the U.S. and South Korea will do so, and when it’s not, they won’t.” However, the other experts said South Korea does not have anything to worry about. “There is no way Washington will do that. Pyongyang has acknowledged that many times in the past. A peace process makes no sense without including all the parties with armed forces in Korea,” Sigal said. “I doubt the U.S. administration would proceed with detailed talks over a peace treaty without insisting on the inclusion of Seoul,” Bandow also said. Kelly advised the South Korean government to be accountable for and take initiative with any deals made with the North. “It is South Korea, not the U.S., that is ultimately responsible for fixing North Korea, and if a deal is made without South Korea, the South Korean public might not see it as legitimate and hold to it. That said, I do think South Korea could do more,” he said. “Greater South Korean defense outlays, and greater public seriousness and sustained attention regarding North Korea, would put South Korea in the driver’s seat of the North Korea debate. Ultimately North Korea is South Korea’s problem first, not America’s or China’s.” Experts said North Korea’s repeated calls for peace treaty talks with the United States seek both political and security interests. “North Korea’s most important goal is regime survival. A peace treaty with the United States helps to ensure that goal but would also be a huge political victory for Kim Jong-un,” Roehrig said. Jackson also said, “Thus, concluding a peace treaty would be a significant accomplishment both politically, and for its security.” “The real value to North Korea is fracturing alliance solidarity while implicitly gaining de facto recognition of its nuclear weapons program.” (Kang Seung-woo, “Will U.S. Shift to Peace Treaty Talks with N.K.?” Korea Times, March 7, 2016)

Jong Nam Hyok: “The United States is directly responsible for terminating armistice and ensuring lasting peace in Korea The primary reason that the United States is directly and mainly responsible for replacing the Armistice Agreement with a peace agreement is because it is a direct signatory to the Armistice Agreement as the leading force of the united forces involved in the Korean War against the DPRK. The armed forces from 15 satellite countries and south Korea mobilized for the Korean War engaged in combat operations under the direct command of the US commander-in-chief of the armed forces in the Far East veiled as the commander-in-chief of the “UN Forces” in the whole period of the war. However, the US commander-in-chief of the armed forces in the Far East never answered to the UN, but to the US president, Pentagon, and the headquarters of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. It is noteworthy that when the counterattack by the Korean People’s Army turned tables in the wake of the war it provoked by instigating the south Korean puppet army, the United States raised the veil as the wire puller and took over and exercised operational command over the south Korean land, naval, and air forces from the Syngman Rhee regime over the whole period of the war. The US military personnel mobilized for the Korean War were numbered at about 1,408,000 which far exceeded the number of military personnel from 15 satellite countries and south Korea, which respectively stood at about 79,000 and over 570,000. The US generals acted as representatives in the talks for the Korean ceasefire and the Armistice Agreement was signed by US Army Gen. Clark, US commander-in-chief of the armed forces in the Far East and US Army Lt. Gen. Harrison, not representatives of the UN or any other country. The United States has been abusing the name of the “UN Forces” of its own accord without any agreement among or consent of the United Nations and there is no doubt that the so-called “UN Forces” are none other than the US Forces. Hence, the UN has also acknowledged on several occasions that the “UN Forces” in south Korea have nothing to do with the UN, but are only a military instrument which the United States has arbitrarily forged. That the US is the very one that has been posing the gravest threat to the survival and development of the DPRK since the end of the war further substantiates the fact that the US is directly responsible for concluding a peace agreement with the DPRK. The United States has for decades pursued a hostile policy — the harshest ever in its history — toward the DPRK and sought to politically obliterate, economically isolate, and militarily stifle the latter. As early as the 1950s, the United States ignited the Korean War with the aim of destroying the DPRK by the use of force. In the post-war days after its defeat in the war, the United States has made a string of agreements with south Korea including the “US-ROK Mutual Defense Treaty” so as to permanently station its land, naval, and aerial forces in any part of the south Korean territory, and it holds the wartime operational control over the south Korean puppet army till date. The United States has systematically brought a large stockpile of nuclear arsenal into south Korea since the late 1950s, turning south Korea into a huge depot of nukes. In the late 1960s, the United States kicked off US-south Korea joint military exercises featuring surprise landing and capture and airlifting operations targeting the DPRK. Since then the US has continued to update and elaborate a series of north-targeted nuclear operational plans with the objective of toppling the DPRK’s leadership and occupying the northern part of the Peninsula at a stroke. Under those plans, the means for preemptive nuclear strike such as aircraft carrier fleets and strategic bombers have frequently been dispatched to the Korean Peninsula.

The US has also employed political and economic means along with military instruments in their persistent pursuance of its strategy to undermine our State. The US seeks to tarnish the image of our Republic by raising the alleged “Human Rights issue” while imposing toughest economic sanctions on the latter for its differing ideology and ideals and for its alleged development and proliferation of weapons of mass destruction. The Declaration for developing inter-Korean relations and ensuring peace and prosperity adopted at the inter-Korean summit meeting in 2007 states that the north and the south shared the understanding about the need to put an end to the existing armistice mechanism and build a lasting peace mechanism and agreed to cooperate with each other in the efforts to push forward the issue of arranging the meeting of the heads of state of three or four parties directly concerned on the Korean Peninsula and declaring an end to the war.

Given the fact that it is a party to the Korean War and to the issue of reunification, one cannot say that south Korea is totally irrelevant to establishing lasting peace mechanism by way of replacing the Armistice Agreement with a peace agreement. Nonetheless, under the circumstances where the US stations its huge armed forces in the south targeting the DPRK and takes hold of wartime control over the south Korean armed forces, it is meaningless to give precedence to north-south talks on signing a peace agreement. China is also a participant in the Korean War and a signatory to the Armistice Agreement. But, its involvement in signing a peace agreement is something to be considered only after the US actually agrees to replace the Armistice Agreement with a peace agreement. Moreover, China has officially announced its position, through the speech of the then-foreign minister at the UN General Assembly in 1975, that it is the practical way for the direct parties to the Korean Armistice Agreement to negotiate and sign a peace agreement in replacement of the Armistice Agreement under the changed circumstances where the Chinese People’s Volunteers’ Corps withdrew from Korea a long time ago and a majority of components of the “UN Command” dispersed. It stands to reason that, to put an end to the unstable state of ceasefire and secure lasting peace by way of replacing the Armistice Agreement with a peace agreement, the US should be the first to come out to sign a peace agreement. Significance of replacing the Armistice Agreement with a peace agreement Once the state of ceasefire between the DPRK and the US is terminated and a peace agreement is reached, a precarious ceasefire regime can be replaced with a lasting peace regime and it would, in turn, lead to fundamental removal of risks of war on the Korean Peninsula. An armistice agreement technically means a temporary suspension of combat operations by warring parties, and even if the armistice agreement is duly observed, it does not imply that the state of war has actually terminated and durable peace has settled in. Furthermore, given that the Korean Armistice Agreement and the subsequent ceasefire regime has completely lost its binding force and is no longer in effect due to the US during the past 60 years, signing a peace agreement becomes all the more urgent. The US intentionally refused to implement Article IV of the Armistice Agreement which stipulates that a higher level political conference shall be convened to seek to secure lasting peace in Korea, and systematically shipped ultra-modern war equipment including nuclear weapons into the whole territory of south Korea. Worse still, in the 1990s, the US appointed a general of the south Korean puppet army, which is neither an actual signatory nor a nominal party to the Armistice Agreement, as the senior representative to the Military Armistice Commission, thus completely breaching core provisions of the Armistice Agreement. In particular, the US has been hell-bent on aggressive military provocations against the DPRK for decades under the pretext of “defense-oriented exercises,” in flagrant violation of the basic spirit of the Armistice Agreement: a complete cessation of all hostilities by all armed forces under their control. The venue of such military movements, the size of the forces mobilized, and the contents of constantly renewed, north-targeted operational plans vividly indicate that those exercises are dangerous hostile acts aimed at occupying the northern part of our Republic by mounting a large-scale surprise attack at any time. It is a universally acknowledged international practice and the requirement of any international law that if an agreement between any countries becomes essentially nullified due to one party, such an agreement would no longer be valid and subsequently, there would be no reason for the other party to stay bound by that agreement. At present, the central boundary line of the ground military demarcation line drawn by the Armistice Agreement is barely retained. However, the August incident of last year teaches a lesson that any accidental incident can lead to a full-scale nuclear war in this region where huge forces of warring parties are standing in acute confrontation. The uncontrollable and dangerous situation, in which the DPRK and the US remaining technically at war consider themselves no longer legally bound in terms of use of force against each other, can be alleviated only when the Armistice Agreement that exists only in name is replaced with a peace agreement. The danger of a war can be completely averted only when the US withdraws its troops stationed in south Korea, quits reinforcing its armaments, and suspends hostile military acts such as joint military drills as a result of the conclusion of a peace agreement.

If the hostile relations between the DPRK and the US are improved and the US hostile policy toward the DPRK is verifiably terminated through the process of a peace agreement, a radical change would be brought about in normalizing relations between countries in northeast Asia. In general, termination of acts of war and normalization of relations through elimination of hostile relations between warring parties constitute two major elements of a peace agreement. At present, the US hostile policy against our Republic is extremely vicious, which is unprecedented in intensity. The resultant hostile relations between the DPRK and the US seriously obstruct the development of inter-Korean relations and DPRK-Japan relations as well as DPRK-US relations. Only when the belligerent and hostile relations between the DPRK and the US are put to an end with the conclusion of the peace agreement can the relations between the countries in the Northeast Asian region be normalized and lasting peace regime be established on the Korean Peninsula. In the past, a number of countries were engaged in a war with the United States, and in the long run, they brought the war to a complete halt and secured permanent peace by way of concluding or proclaiming a peace treaty or similar documents. Like the Korean War, the Vietnamese War was a clash between the US strategy toward Asia and the interests of the Vietnamese people and, at the same time, a confrontation between two conflicting ideals. Vietnam was of geopolitical significance as much as Korea for the United States in terms of realizing its strategy for domination over Asia. However, unlike the Korean War, the Vietnamese War came to an end with the signing of the peace agreement. As seen above, there is no reason why the United States can’t agree to reaching a peace agreement. Despite the fact that signing of a peace agreement between the DPRK and the US is becoming a matter of great urgency, the latter persistently rejects the proposal by demanding nuclear abandonment on the DPRK’s part as a precondition. Although the signing of a peace agreement is an issue to be addressed without any delay or precondition in light of its priority and urgency, the United States refuses to sign a peace agreement by asking for the DPRK’s nuclear abandonment as a precondition, claiming it as a package solution to all other relevant issues. As long as belligerent and hostile relations between the DPRK and the US continue to exist, talk of “respect for sovereignty,” “equality,” and denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula sounds hollow, devoid of any practical significance.

The DPRK’s option for building up its nuclear force under such difficult circumstances is not intended to seek any political and economic benefits from the US and other countries or for intimidating anyone. The DPRK was compelled to opt for building up its nuclear force to deter serious threats to our State and people posed by the United States which possesses the world’s most destructive nuclear force in quantity and quality and is in a state of war against the former. Therefore, the argument that the DPRK’s scrapping of nuclear weapons would pave the way for concluding a peace agreement is a sophism where the cause and the outcome are completely reversed. That out of the two parties in belligerent and hostile relations, one party demands that the other disarm while continuing to inflict serious military threats on the latter is an expression of inequality in itself and proves that the former intends to prolong the belligerent relationship, not to bring peace. We have witnessed a string of precedents where the United States has coaxed those countries with differing ideology and ideals, the countries that stand in the way of realizing its strategy for world domination, into disarming themselves with fraudulent promises to lift sanctions and normalize the relations before toppling them. It is utter nonsense for the United States to demand DPRK denuclearization while constantly imposing nuclear threats upon the DPRK by military provocations such as large-scale joint military drills involving nuclear strike means. “A policy based on the approach of laying stress on denuclearization alone on the conception that North Korea is equal to nuclear threats is doomed to fail. It is because the only way for North Korea to scrap its nuclear weapons is to convince the former into trusting in the US, and therefore, such a policy of merely sticking to the nuclear issue and pursuing stand-off is infeasible,” once noted Henry Kissinger, former US Secretary of State. Sitting US government officials voice their interest, on every possible occasion, in détente and ensuring peace on the Korean Peninsula, and if they are as sincere as they sound, they should take a strategic option for giving priority to replacing the Armistice Agreement with a peace agreement before addressing the rest of the issues. Today, thanks to the DPRK’s deterrence, the balance of power is maintained and nominal peace is preserved by the skin of its teeth on the Korean Peninsula. The conclusion of a peace agreement is not the only way for achieving peace. If the US persists on its strategy of stifling our Republic by use of force while constantly rejecting the conclusion of a peace agreement, the DPRK will have to make the inevitable choice to deter the war by means of force and protect peace.” (Jong Nam Hyok, “Replacing Armistice Agreement with Peace Agreement Is the Best Way for ensuring Peace on the Korean Peninsula and the Rest of the Northeast Asian Region,” Institute for American Studies, DPRK, March 7, 2016)


3/8/16:
The government said that it has decided to pull out of a joint logistics project involving the two Koreas and Russia and has notified Moscow of the decision. The government said the suspension of the Rajin-Khasan project is part of a set of punitive measures in response to Pyongyang’s nuclear test and long-range rocket launch. The measures include a ban on the entry of foreign ships if they have visited North Korea six months before making a port call here. The three-way logistics project was aimed at securing a sales route for Siberian coal through a railroad between Russia’s border town of Khasan and North Korea’s ice-free port of Rajin, from where vessels carried it to South Korean companies. Involving Chinese-flagged ships, a total of three trial runs took place from 2014 to 2015. “We’ve notified Russia of our action concerning the joint project through diplomatic channels,” said a government source on condition of anonymity. It added that Russia regarded South Korea’s move as “regrettable.” Moscow threatened to use its veto power at the UNSC unless international sales of Siberian coal through Rajin could continue before joining hands to approve UNSC Resolution 2270 on Pyongyang, last Wednesday. Lee Suk-joon, who leads the Prime Minister Office’s secretariat, said Seoul’s unilateral sanctions are expected to play a key role in implementing the U.N. measures. “The government will thoroughly carry out UNSC Resolution 2270 to spearhead international efforts,” he said during a joint press conference involving related ministries at the government complex in downtown Seoul. “We’ve come up with our own measures accordingly to pressure North Korea.” The government blacklisted 40 individuals and 30 entities in its efforts to cut off cash flows to North Korea for the development of weapons of mass destructions (WMDs). Two of the 40 individuals are from Singapore and Taiwan while the rest are North Koreans. Six of the 30 entities are in Egypt, Singapore, Myanmar, Thailand, the British Virgin Islands and Taiwan. One of the targeted North Korean officials is Kim Yong-chul, who has masterminded intelligence operations against South Korea for years. He is also subject to sanctions adopted by the United States, the European Union, Japan and Australia but was excluded from 16 individuals and 12 entities blacklisted under UNSC Resolution 2270.Theoretically, the blacklisted individuals will be banned from travelling to other countries while the targeted entities will be barred from engaging in overseas trade. Under the ban on maritime shipping, vessels originating from the repressive state but caught flying the flags of other countries will be prohibited from entering South Korea. Seoul said it will also closely monitor and prevent goods from North Korea being imported to South Korea via other nations while ensuring South Korean goods will not be exported to the military state regardless of the circumstances.

It also said that it will urge South Koreans to refraining from eating at North Korean restaurants when they travel abroad. The restaurants are suspected of being operated by Office 39, a secretive branch of the repressive regime. It directly reports to North Korea leader Kim Jong-un concerning the use of money for the development of WMDs. (Yi Whan-woo, “Seoul Suspends Raji-Khasan Logistics Project,” Korea Times, March 8, 2016) The government newly designated 30 North Korean and foreign organizations, and 40 individuals subject to an asset freeze and a ban on financial and property transactions with any South Korean entity, sharply expanding the existing blacklist to 34 groups and 43 people. With North Korean restaurants around the world serving as a cash-earning tool, the government appealed to citizens not to visit them and other profit-making facilities overseas. Some 130 branches in 12 countries are believed to make about $10 million in total every year, it said. The blacklist includes some military, financial and trading institutions that are already under sanctions imposed by the U.N., the U.S., European Union or other countries for their suspected involvement in the North’s nuclear and missile programs, such as the Foreign Trade Bank, Strategic Forces, Korea Daesong General Trading Corporation and Kim Yong-chol, former director of the Reconnaissance General Bureau. Among the newly banned are Ilsim International Bank, Korea Foreign Technical Trade Center, deputy director of the ruling Workers’ Party’s Munitions Industry Department Ri Byong-chol and Hong Yong-chil, a deputy director of the party’s Central Committee. Six institutions of foreign nationalities also made it to the record, in addition to Leonard Lai Yong Chian, the Singaporean president of Senat Shipping Agency, and Lyou Jen-Yi, the Taiwanese head of Royal Team Corporation. The firms are EKO Development and Investment Company of Egypt, Senat Shipping Agency Ltd. of Singapore, Soe Min Htike Co. Ltd. of Myanmar, Daedong Credit Bank or DCB Finance Ltd. of the British Virgin Island, Mariner’s Shipping & Trading of Thailand, and Royal Team Corporation of Taiwan. The first four are already sanctioned by Washington, and all the six are assumed to have been supporting North Korea’s illicit activities. With the port entry ban in place, international shipping companies will now eschew doing business with the North given that carriage contracts are usually made on a six month basis, officials said, citing Japan’s case. Last year, 66 third-country-flagged ships with records of staying in the North made a total of 104 entries to South Korean ports, typically loaded with steel and general merchandise, government data shows. Tokyo also imposed a similar embargo last month on all North Korean and foreign-flag vessels including on humanitarian missions. The Japanese government said 44 ships that previously went to the North arrived in the country last year alone. (Shin Hyon-hee, “Seoul Imposes Financial, Shipping Sanctions on North Korea,” Korea Herald, March 8, 2016)

China has barred a North Korean freighter from one of its ports, stepping up sanctions against the isolated state. North Korean general cargo ship Grand Karo arrived at Rizhao port in northeastern China a few days ago, but the port did not allow the ship to berth, said a person at the Rizhao Maritime Authority, declining to be identified because he was not authorized to speak to the media. The ship is among 31 vessels blacklisted by China’s Ministry of Transport after they were covered by harsher sanctions on North Korea that were approved by the U.N. Security Council last week. At least two other ships on the list of barred freighters are now sailing away after being anchored off Chinese ports, ship tracking data on the Reuters Eikon terminal showed. Another of the vessels has been banned from leaving port in the Philippines until safety deficiencies, found during a security and safety inspection of the vessel, are rectified. The 6,593 deadweight tonne (dwt) Grand Karo is now anchored about 35 km (22 miles) from Rizhao, ship tracking data showed. “The vessel operator will have to decide what they can do,” the Rizhao maritime official said. “If non-sanctioned North Korean ships enter the port, officials will ask senior authorities for instructions on how to deal with them,” the official added. Officials of Mariner’s Shipping & Trading declined comment. One of them referred queries to the Thai foreign ministry and said: “All this has been very bad for us. Very bad for trade.” Mariner’s Shipping & Trading, with its head office in Bangkok, has operated and financed vessels associated with Ocean Maritime Management Co. Ltd, a North Korean company that has been blacklisted along with the 31 ships it controls. Taiwan’s Royal Team Corporation, which is believed to have sold parts that were used in North Korea’s long-range rocket launched in 2012, according to a U.N. panel, did not immediately have comment. Nineteen of the 31 ships have their automatic identification systems (AIS), a mandatory vessel tracking safety device, switched off, according to Reuters data. Some have gone silent in the last few days while others have not been online since 2014. One vessel, the 5,686 dwt Hui Chon, is moored at the Russian Far East port of Vostochny. Port officials could not be contacted because it is a public holiday in Russia. Eight vessels are sailing, while there is no record on Reuters and shipping databases of one of the sanctioned ships. The Grand Karo, which was turned away at the Chinese port, is owned by Yuanyao Shipping Ltd and managed by Aoyang Marine Company, two Hong Kong-registered firms, according to the Reuters’ Eikon and the Equasis shipping database, although is no telephone number listing for either company. Of the two ships sailing toward North Korea, the 14,379 dwt Dawnlight, now renamed First Gleam, was heading to the port of Wonsan, after being anchored in the outer Yangtze River estuary near Shanghai until early on Tuesday. The 6,901 dwt Ever Bright 88, owned and managed by Hong Kong companies, Pantech Shipping Ltd and Baili Shipping & Trading Ltd, was sailing towards North Korea after being anchored off China. A Shanghai Maritime Bureau official who was only willing to give his surname as Yu confirmed the bureau had received the transport ministry notice but had not dealt with any of the ships. Shanghai Port was unavailable for comment. Maritime safety and port officials in the Chinese ports of Longkou, Yantai and Shandong and Lianyunggang declined to comment. (Ju-min Park and Ruby Lian, “China, South Korea Step up Sanctions on North Korea,” Reuters, March 8, 2016)

South Korea’s main spy agency accused North Korea of hacking the smartphones of dozens of senior government officials here, saying that Pyongyang had stolen their text messages, contact information and voice conversations. The National Intelligence Service has said that South Korea faces a growing threat of major online attacks from the North, possibly in retaliation for the latest international sanctions over Pyongyang’s nuclear arms and missile programs. The intelligence agency said in a news release that it had shared information about recent North Korean hacking attempts in a meeting with other government agencies, which was called to discuss the country’s readiness for a major online attack. Between late February and early March, the agency said, North Korea tried to infiltrate the smartphones of senior South Korean officials by sending them text messages designed to activate a virus. About 20 percent of those phones were infected with the virus, according to the agency, which did not identify the officials who had been targeted. The agency also said that North Korea had successfully hacked into the network of a company that provided security software for an online banking system used by more than 20 million South Koreans. But it said that the attack, which took place in February, was detected early and that there was no major disruption to banking services. The intelligence service did not explain how it had concluded that North Korea was responsible. (Choe Sang-hun, “South Korea, Saying North Hacked Phones, Warns of a Looming Cyberattack” New York Times, March 9, 2016, p. A-4)


3/9/16:
KCNA: “Kim Jong Un, first secretary of the Workers’ Party of Korea, first chairman of the National Defense Commission of the DPRK and supreme commander of the Korean People’s Army, met the scientists and technicians in the field of researches into nuclear weapons and guided the work for mounting nuclear warheads on ballistic rockets. He learned in detail about the signal successes made by the nuclear scientists and technicians in the field of national defense science in the work true to the party’s line of founding the Juche-oriented nuclear force. He listened with great attention to the briefing on the research conducted to tip various type tactical and strategic ballistic rockets with nuclear warheads and acquainted himself with the specifications and mechanism of the miniaturized powerful nuclear warheads with a Korean-style structure of mixed charge. Praising the nuclear scientists and technicians, trustworthy “nuclear combatants” of the party, for having made a signal success in the national defense scientific researches to significantly bolster up the nation’s defense capability and self-defensive deterrent true to the party’s line of simultaneously developing the two fronts, he noted it is very gratifying to see the nuclear warheads with the Korean-style structure of mixed charge adequate for prompt thermonuclear reaction. The nuclear warheads have been standardized to be fit for ballistic rockets by miniaturizing them, he noted, adding this can be called true nuclear deterrent. He noted with great satisfaction that Koreans can do anything if they have a will. Being a proud nuclear weapons state at present, we have a firm guarantee for making a breakthrough in the drive for economic construction and improving the people’s standard of living on the basis of the powerful nuclear war deterrent, he stressed. He said that the WPK’s line of simultaneously developing the two fronts is not a temporary counter-action for coping with the rapidly changing situation but a strategic line to be permanently held fast to as long as the imperialists’ nuclear threat and arbitrary practices persist. He called on the nuclear scientists, the frontline combatants responsible for the country’s nuclear deterrent, to creditably perform their honorable mission and duty on behalf of the party, the country and the revolution on the first battle line for decisively foiling with a nuclear treasured sword the enemies’ daily escalating reckless moves to stifle the DPRK and glorifying it as the matchless nuclear power which no force on earth dares to provoke. Noting that our nuclear force’s real “enemy” is a nuclear war itself, he added that the stronger our nuclear strike capability gets, the more powerful our deterrent to aggression and nuclear war grows and it is the most just and reliable way of preventing the country from a nuclear war disaster to firmly bolster up the nuclear force both in quality and quantity. The right to make a preemptive nuclear strike is by no means a monopoly of the U.S., he said, declaring that if the U.S. imperialists infringe upon the DPRK’s sovereignty and right to existence with nuclear weapons, it will never hesitate to make a preemptive nuclear strike at them. He expressed great expectation and belief that scientists and technicians in the field of researches into nuclear weapons would develop and produce more Korean-style various type nuclear weapons of Juche to completely contain the enemies with nuclear force and thus provide a firmer guarantee for the eternal future of Kim Il Sung’s nation and Kim Jong Il’s Korea. He was accompanied by General Kim Rak Gyom, commander of the KPA Strategic Force, Hong Yong Chil and Kim Yo Jong, vice department directors of the Central Committee of the WPK.” (KCNA, “Kim Jong-un Guides Work for Mounting Nuclear Warheads on Ballistic Rockets,” March 9, 2016)

North Korea said it has made nuclear warheads small enough to fit on ballistic missiles in its latest threat to South Korea and the United States, which have recently begun their annual joint military drills. At a meeting with nuclear scientists and technicians, North Korean leader Kim Jong-un said that his country has made a nuclear bomb lighter and achieved its “standardization,” according to KCNA. “The nuclear warheads have been standardized to be fit for ballistic missiles by miniaturizing them,” Kim was quoted as saying by KCNA. “This can be called true nuclear deterrent.” In a display of its military prowess, North Korea unveiled a photo on Wednesday of what appears to be a mockup of a round-shaped nuclear warhead that could be mounted atop the KN-08 missile. The U.S. Pentagon said Tuesday that Washington has not seen the North demonstrate the capability to miniaturize a warhead. “With regard to the ballistic missile threat, we still feel confident that we can deter and respond to a missile threat from North Korea,” said Peter Cook, Pentagon press secretary. An official at Seoul’s defense ministry cast a similar view. “We think the North’s technology of miniaturizing nuke arms has reached a significant level,” the official said. “But South Korea and the U.S. have not had any intelligence that the North has succeeded in fitting nuclear warheads on ballistic missiles. There is no sign for that.” (Yonhap, “North Korea Says It Has Miniaturized Nuclear Warheads,” March 9, 2016)

South Korea said that it will continue to provide humanitarian assistance to North Korea despite its fresh sanctions aimed at punishing the North for its nuke and missile programs. The Ministry of Unification said that there is no change in its principle that Seoul will continue to allow civic groups to offer humanitarian assistance to the underprivileged in North Korea. “Despite the new sanctions, there is no change in the government’s stance that Seoul will continue to offer humanitarian aid to North Koreans including infants and their mothers,” Jeong Joon-hee, a ministry spokesman, said in a regular press briefing. “But we will take a cautious approach in deciding the timing and size of the assistance by taking various factors into consideration.” A U.N. report showed in April last year that about 70 percent of North Korea’s 24.6 million people are suffering due to food shortages. It said 1.8 million, including children and pregnant women, are in need of nutritional food supplies aimed at fighting malnutrition. (Yonhap, “Seoul to Continue Providing Humanitarian Aid to Pyongyang,” Korea Herald, March 9, 2016)


3/10/16:
CPRK spokesman’s statement: “No sooner had the U.S. and its followers masterminded the UN ‘sanctions resolution’ against the DPRK than the Park Geun Hye group of south Korea announced what it called independent “sanctions” against the DPRK. … As far as the ‘sanctions resolution’ announced by the Park group is concerned, it is no more than rubbish as it is peppered only with nonsensical items. The farce is no more than a last-ditch attempt of the puppet group of traitors being frightened by the blast of the DPRK’s Juche-based H-bomb for achieving national reunification and a foolish act of psychopaths jumping into fire with faggot on their backs. Park Geun Hye, who is no more than a servant of the U.S., goes so ridiculous as to dare attempt to undermine the status of the dignified DPRK as a nuclear power and put a brake on the advance of the DPRK’s just cause for bolstering up its nuclear force for self-defense. The DPRK will take the following measures under the condition that Park Geun Hye, obsessed with confrontation with fellow countrymen in the north, unhesitatingly spewed out her venom to impose independent ‘sanctions’ upon the north after shutting down the Kaesong Industrial Zone (KIZ), which was the last hope of the north-south relations. From this moment, we declare all the north-south agreements on the economic cooperation and exchange null and void. We will totally liquidate all the properties of the south side’s business groups and relevant organs in the north side as the south Korean puppet group unilaterally and totally stopped the tour of Mt. Kumgang and operation of KIZ. We will continuously take the planned special measures for hastening the miserable end of the Park Geun Hye group of traitors by dealing fatal political, military and economic blows at it. The criminal Park Geun Hye group resorting to evil things in Chongwadae, primary target of the Korean People’s Army, will be made to pay dearly.” (KCNA, “Park Guen-hye Regime’s Anti-DPRK ‘Sanctions’ Will Only Precipitate Its Ruin: CPRK Spokesman,” March 10, 2016)

North Korea said it will nullify all cross-border agreements on economic cooperation and liquidate South Korean assets in the country in response to Seoul’s latest sanctions on it. In response, the South Korean government strongly condemned Pyongyang’s move, rejecting North Korea’s unilateral argument. “We cannot condone the North’s decision to make the inter-Korean agreements invalid and sell off South Korean assets,” the ministry handling inter-Korean affairs said, calling the latest steps taken as “provocations.” It said that North Korea should not infringe on South Korean assets, warning that the North will be held accountable for its decision. Earlier in the day, North Korea fired two short-range missiles into the East Sea in a show of protest against the ongoing annual joint military drills between Seoul and Washington. “North Korea showed a tit-for-tat response to South Korea over Seoul’s move to suspend the factory zone and slap on fresh sanctions,” said Kim Yong-hyun, a professor of North Korean studies at Dongguk University. He said it was a show of strong protest indicating that the North has no intent to seeking exchanges and reconciliation if Seoul does not change. (Yonhap, “N. Korea to Nullify Inter-Korean Projects, Liquidate S. Korean Assets,” March 10, 2016)

Michael Elleman and Michael J. Zagorek, Jr.: “To defend against the North Korean missile force, South Korea currently has a mix of Patriot systems with the older PAC-2 batteries to be upgraded or replaced by the more modern PAC-3 by the end of the year. These are supplemented by US deployments of the same weapon. The PAC-3 system is intended to provide protection for key installations such as airfields, ports, critical infrastructure, military command centers or leadership locations. Comprised of Extended Range Interceptors (ERINT), a MPQ-53 phased-array radar, launch canisters, a mast group for communications, and a fire-control unit, PAC-3 intercepts short- and medium-range missiles by colliding with the threatening missile or warhead at low-altitudes (less than 25 km, or endoatmospheric) and at short distances (35-40 km or less) from its location. Because PAC-3 destroys targets at low altitudes, it is said to be a ‘lower-tier’ defense system. The THAAD system intercepts incoming short, medium and intermediate range ballistic missiles above the atmosphere—exoatmospheric intercept—providing an upper-tier layer of defense when operating in conjunction with the lower-tier Patriots. THAAD consists of five primary components: interceptor missiles, launch canisters, AN/TPY-2 phased array radar, a fire-control unit, and support equipment—including a power-generation and cooling units. These can detect and track targets at a range of about 1000km—assuming the target has a radar-cross section of about 1 m. The first scenario for deployment of a layered defense assumes that North Korea launches its missiles from an operating area in the far north near its border with China. A single THAAD battery is stationed at an airbase a few kilometers north of Cheongju, which, in principle, will be able to defend a major portion of South Korea except a few islands south of the peninsula. This conclusion assumes that North Korean missiles fly on what is called a minimum-energy trajectory: a normal flight path that maximizes range for a specified burn-out velocity. However, analysis shows that if North Korea were to alter the launch trajectory—for example using a depressed or flattened trajectory—that would shift the footprint to the south by up to 90-100 km. As a result, that might create gaps in coverage and, as a result, the South may need to deploy a second THAAD battery. Depressed and normal, minimum-energy trajectories differ in the same way a line drive and fly ball take different paths to the outfield in baseball. …Given this launch position, covering the entire territory of South Korea under varying North Korean launch positions, missile trajectories and missile types, will require two batteries. A single battery still provides coverage of most of South Korea, except for the northeastern corridor. The shape of the footprint is different primarily because the interceptor and Hwasong launch locations are near enough to each other to allow THAAD to intercept in the North Korean missile’s ascent phase, in addition to the terminal phase of flight. THAAD’s ability to intercept short-range missiles in the ascent phase has yet to be demonstrated, so prudence dictates that a second THAAD battery located near the south end of the peninsula would be required to ensure short-range missiles launched by North Korea from positions within 100 km of the DMZ can be engaged successfully. All told, this preliminary analysis of THAAD capabilities indicates that two THAAD batteries are required to defend all of South Korea. While two THAAD batteries can be deployed in such a way to cover all of South Korea, an additional critical question is how effective will the system be in destroying incoming missiles. Because THAAD intercepts targets at altitudes above 50 km and is capable of protecting large areas, it ideally complements the lower-tier PAC-3, which protects point targets. In essence, intercepting targets at multiple levels, or tiers, offers more opportunities to succeed and improves intercept efficiency, which is the calculated number of interceptors needed to achieve a specified measure of protection. Interceptor efficiency is governed primarily by the probability an individual interceptor will collide with and destroy a missile or warhead. It is often referred to as the “single-shot probability of kill,” or SSPk. Historically, missile defense designers at the US Missile Defense Agency have sought to achieve SSPk values of between 0.8 and 0.9, which means a single interceptor should succeed 80 to 90 percent of the time. Recent development and validation testing of THAAD indicate a kill probability of 0.8 is feasible, though design goals and test results may not be replicated under wartime conditions. Nonetheless, assuming an SSPk of 0.8 offers a measuring stick for evaluating the theoretical benefits of deploying THAAD in South Korea. It is unclear what performance criteria South Korea or the US military have established for missile defenses on the peninsula. Two criteria are posited here for purely illustrative purposes. The first criterion would require the missile defense architecture to intercept all attacking threats with a probability of 0.75, and the other would dictate a probability of 0.9 that no attacking missiles leak through the defenses. The latter criterion might be required as an absolute minimum if North Korea is launching nuclear-armed missiles; the former, more relaxed criterion, might be acceptable for conventionally-armed attacks. If one further assumes that two interceptors are launched at each layer of defense, the SSPk requirement to meet the overall defense criterion that all warheads in an attack are destroyed with a probability of 0.75, or a more stringent probability of 0.90, can be calculated. For illustrative purposes, assume the attacks consist of either 20 or 50 missiles at a time, which is a small fraction (less that 10 percent) of the overall stockpile held by North Korea, but is reasonably consistent with the estimated number of trained and equipped firing brigades capable of launching Hwasong and Nodong missiles under wartime conditions. The benefits of layering the defenses are captured in Table 1, where the calculated results for one-and two-tiered defenses are presented. The results captured in Table 2 illustrate the conclusion that a layered defense is likely to be more effective. In a single-layer defense where two interceptors are fired at each of the 20 or 50 attacking warheads, the requirement that all warheads are destroyed 75 or 90 percent of the time cannot be satisfied unless the SSPk of each interceptor is significantly greater than 0.80. If two layers are operational when an attack of 20 or 50 warheads is executed, the SSPk requirement is less than 0.8. This suggests that if THAAD and PAC-3can achieve the same degree of success on the battlefield as in validation testing to date, a two-tiered defense in South Korea can meet the notional requirements assumed here. In addition to reducing the SSPk value needed to defend against 20 or 50 missiles, a layered defense can also reduce the total number of interceptors that must be fired, assuming the first intercept attempt occurs early enough to facilitate a “shoot-assess-shoot” strategy. Shoot-assess-shoot is possible if the upper-tier (THAAD) intercept attempt occurs early enough in the threat missile’s trajectory to allow the lower-tier defense (PAC-3) to determine if the THAAD succeeded before launching the PAC-3 interceptors. For each success by THAAD, the PAC-3 defense would not have to fire its interceptors, thereby preserving them for use against future attacks. This becomes increasingly important as North Korea increases the number of missile firings above the 20 or 50 launches assumed. Also, if each of the PAC-3 batteries has access to THAAD radar data, it would be possible for them to be launched before the target enters PAC-3 radar coverage. This scenario is referred to as a “launch on remote” where one system launches its missiles on data generated by a remote sensor. PAC-3 batteries with a launch on remote capability would, in principle, have the capacity to protect a larger swath of territory, in some limited cases nearly doubling its defended footprint. While THAAD can provide an important additional capability to protect for South Korea, a critical question is whether Pyongyang’s large missile inventory will afford it opportunities to overwhelm the postulated one-to-two THAAD battery architecture. A single THAAD battery holds a limited number of ready-to-launch interceptors, likely ranging from 48 to 96. Spare interceptors can be stockpiled, though at great expense. This implies that one THAAD battery can defend against 20and 50 attacking missiles if two interceptors are assigned to each incoming warhead. If additional interceptors are available, the launch canisters can be reloaded within an hour or so. However, there is no assurance that North Korea would pause firing its missiles to allow THAAD to reload. And given that North Korea has hundreds of Hwasong and Nodong missiles, one can easily recognize how large the defenses would have to be if the mission was to attempt intercepts on all incoming missiles over an extended time. Further, the AN/TPY-2 fire-control radar is limited in terms of the number of objects it can track while also providing updated guidance information to the interceptors in flight. Once again, if North Korea launches more than roughly 20 missiles simultaneously, this would likely saturate the radar, as it would necessarily be tracking 60 objects at once. The precise limitations are classified, though it is clear that if the objective is to blunt large salvos from North Korea, at least two or more THAAD batteries would be required. Lastly, to protect against missile attacks launched from North Korean territory, all of the PAC-3 and THAAD radars would necessarily be pointed north. If North Korea successfully develops and deploys a submarine-launch ballistic missile, as it has been attempting over the past year or two, the missile defenses discussed above would be ineffective against the missiles fired from the waters east, west and south of the lower Korean peninsula. No missile defense system or architecture will be “leak proof.” Rather, missile defenses are designed to reduce the number of missiles striking critical targets, much in the way air defenses retard attacks by an enemy’s air forces. If North Korea fires conventionally-armed missiles, a low leakage rate is acceptable since the damage caused will be manageable. However, missiles equipped with nuclear warheads are another matter entirely. Even if only one penetrates the defenses the death and damage would be immense. In this context, the addition of THAAD, or any other missile-defense system will not guarantee that South Korea is immune to Pyongyang’s nuclear-armed missiles. To better understand to catastrophic damage caused by a nuclear bomb, let’s assume that one missile with a nuclear warhead beats THAAD and lands on Seoul. A 20 kiloton warhead would result in casualties extending up to 5 km. from the point of detonation. The data in the following table show the casualties in each of the five rings/zones shown in the Google Earth satellite image below plus the total casualties in comparison with the total population of Seoul proper. The deployment of one or two THAAD batteries in South Korea would substantially enhance its capacity to defend against a North Korean missile attack. To be sure, there is no perfect defense against ballistic missile attacks, but the probability of greatly reducing the damage resulting from missiles with conventional warheads increases when THAAD is incorporated into the defense architecture. When viewed through the lens of providing maximum protection from a North Korean missile threat, accepting the American offer to provide THAAD to the Republic of Korea is a prudent and defensible policy decision for Seoul.” (Michael Elleman and Michael J. Zagorek, Jr., “THAAD: What It Can and Can’t Do,” 38North, March 10, 2016)


3/11/16:
KCNA: “A mobile drill for ballistic rocket launch aimed at examining the capability to fight an actual war of the Strategic Force of the Korean People’s Army (KPA) equipped with powerful nuclear deterrent means was conducted by a combat order of Marshal Kim Jong Un. He watched the ballistic rocket launch drill of the Strategic Force of the KPA. At the launching drill ground, he listened to the determination of General Kim Rak Gyom, commander of the Strategic Force, to make firepower strike and ratified it. By the order of the commander of the Strategic Force to open fire, its powerful ballistic rockets were launched to break the silence at night. The drill was conducted under the simulated conditions of exploding nuclear warheads from the preset altitude above targets in the ports under the enemy control where foreign aggressor forces are involved. Expressing great satisfaction over the successful firepower strike drill of the strategic force in which high maneuverability was ensured and a correct launching method was applied to different enemy targets as required by a modern war, he extended a militant salute to the service personnel of the KPA Strategic Force in the name of the supreme commander. He set forth the important tasks to be fulfilled to further round off the nuclear weapons operation system and properly wage a Juche-oriented ballistic rocket battle. He underscored the need to put greater spurs to developing nuclear weapons, a new goal set by the party, and dynamically push forward the diversification of means for delivering nuclear warheads so as to get ready to make nuclear strikes at the enemies from anywhere on the ground, in the air, at sea and underwater. Underlining the need to steadily improve the nuclear strike capability by boosting the cooperation between the nuclear weapons research field and rocket research field in the future, he gave militant tasks to conduct more nuclear explosion tests to estimate the destructive power of the newly produced nuclear warheads and other tests to bolster up the nuclear attack capability. He stressed the need to ensure a prompt and safe operation of nuclear attack system in the state of the nation’s utmost emergency and more thoroughly establish a unitary system of command and control over the strategic nuclear force. As the war-thirsty Park Geun Hye group is now set to launch the most undisguised nuclear war against the DPRK while staging the largest-ever Key Resolve and Foal Eagle 16 joint military exercises after introducing huge aggressor forces including the U.S. imperialist aggressor forces and their satellite troops and even lots of U.S. nuclear strategic means into south Korea despite our crucial warning, our self-defensive countermeasures should adopt a more preemptive and offensive mode, he said. He declared that the DPRK would make the enemies regret for their misjudgment made in a wrong time and reckless action taken without any measure and take a series of Korean-style powerful countermeasures in succession to this end. If the U.S. imperialists and south Korean puppet group kick off another reckless military action and stage a clumsy farce against the dignified DPRK, prompted by an extreme wild ambition for invading it, the puppet reactionary regime in south Korea will fall, hit so hard physically that it would never appear again, he noted, adding that as a strong warning had been served already, it is the only way for the Park Geun Hye regime to exercise prudence and self-control so as to escape a miserable end until the last day of its office. He went on: We remain unperturbed in face of the enemies’ any dangerous saber-rattling under our eyes, but if they destroy even a single tree or a blade of grass in our inviolable territory, I will issue a prompt order to launch attack with all military strike means including nuclear weapons and strike the Park regime and hordes of the puppet military with deadly baptism of fire so that they may not exist any longer. He called on the service personnel of the KPA Strategic Force to clearly show the reckless warmongers what the Juche-oriented military counteraction is like. He issued an order to all the nuclear strike means of the Strategic Force targeting major strike objects in the operation theatres of south Korea and the U.S. imperialist aggressor forces bases in the Asia-Pacific region to be always ready for action and fully prepared to fight a decisive battle till the U.S. imperialists and the Park Geun Hye group of traitors are worn out and dispirited with war hysteria against the north. Watching the launch drill were Hwang Pyong So, Ri Pyong Chol, Hong Sung Mu, Kim Jong Sik, Yun Tong Hyon, officials of the Munitions Industry Department of the Central Committee of the Workers’ Party of Korea and scientists and technicians in the field of researches into nuclear weapons.” (KCNA, “Kim Jong Un Watches Ballistic Rocket Launch Drill of Strategic Force of KPA,” March 11, 2016)

North Korea successfully hacked the smartphones of scores of senior South Korean officials recently, a ruling party lawmaker said, citing Seoul’s spy agency. “(The North) sent malicious emails to (smartphones belonging to) 300 diplomats and military officials by impersonating the presidential office, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Unification Ministry. Forty of them were successfully hacked,” Lee Cheol-woo of the ruling Saenuri Party said. Lee made the comments to reporters after attending a closed-door parliamentary session of the National Intelligence Service (NIS) in Seoul. The NIS believes that North Korean hackers successfully infected the 40 phones between late February and early March, and eventually gained access to lists of phone calls made, along with the contents of text messages and phone conversations. Lee further assumed that National Security Adviser Kim Kwan-jin and Defense Minister Han Min-koo were included on the list. “The NIS did not identify of the officials (whose smartphones were hacked), but it is speculated that those people would be included,” Lee told Yonhap. The North also opened a Facebook account posing as a North Korean female to approach dozens of former and incumbent South Korean government officials for espionage purpose, according to Lee. Rep. Joo Ho-young, who also attended the session, said that the North Korean cyberattacks against Seoul have doubled in the past month, citing the NIS briefing. Joo also said the North had tried to hack into the control tower of South Korea’s rail system as well as the computer networks of major financial institutions. These attempts, however, were interrupted by the NIS, the lawmaker said. (Yonhap, “N. Korea Successfully Hacks into Accounts of Scores of S. Korean Officials: Spy Agency,” March 11, 2016)

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon met with Gil Won-ok, one of the less than 50 surviving victims of Japan’s wartime military-run brothel system known as “comfort women.” Ban met with Gil and Yoon Mee-Hyang, co-chair of the Korean Council for the Women Drafted for Military Sexual Slavery by Japan. An agreement in December between South Korea and Japan included an indirect apology from Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and a Japanese pledge to provide ¥1 billion yen ($8 million) to a fund for the South Korean victims. Ban, who is South Korean, said in a statement that he was sympathetic with Gil. “It is crucial that the voices of victims and survivors are heard,” he said. The meeting came the same week that survivor Yongsoo Lee addressed the United Nations Correspondents Association. “I know Ban Ki-moon is Korean person but what does he know about what happened to us?” she said at the Tuesday meeting. Only a handful of the Asian comfort women are still alive today, most of them in their late 80s and 90s. The meeting came a day after U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Hussein indicated that the Japan-South Korea agreement to “finally and irreversibly” resolve the issue is insufficient. The terms in the agreement, announced late last December, “have been questioned by various U.N. human rights mechanisms, and most importantly by the survivors themselves,” Hussein told a U.N. Human Rights Council meeting Thursday, where he made an annual report on the human rights situations around the world. Hussein said, “It is fundamentally important that the relevant authorities reach out to these courageous and dignified women,” adding, “Ultimately, only they can judge whether they have received genuine redress.” In a related move, a group of U.N. human rights experts, including special rapporteurs tackling discrimination against women and promoting truth, justice and reparation, said in a statement Friday that the Japanese and South Korean governments “should understand that this issue will not be considered resolved so long as all the victims, including from other Asian countries, remain unheard, their expectations unmet and their wounds left wide open.” They also said that they are “deeply concerned” that South Korea “may remove a statue commemorating not only the historical issue and legacy of the comfort women but also symbolizing the survivors’ long search for justice.” In a report to conclude its examination on Japan on March 7, the U.N. Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women expressed regret over the Japan-South Korea agreement, saying, among other things, that it “did not fully adopt a victim-centered approach.” (AP, JIJI, “U.N. Chief Meets with Comfort Woman; Rights Chief Calls Japan-South Korea Deal ‘Insufficient,’” Japan Times, March 12, 2016)

Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi’s two-day visit to Moscow this week has largely focused on North Korea’s increasing nuclear threats. After meeting with Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov, Wang said China would not recognize North Korea’s status as a nuclear power. He also said Pyongyang’s development of nuclear weapons must be stopped, and that China was firmly committed to denuclearization of the entire Korean Peninsula. Vowing that Beijing would not abandon efforts to resume six-party talks, Wang said all provisions of the U.N. resolution sanctioning North Korea must be fully implemented, but with an eye to minimizing any adverse impact on ordinary North Koreans. In the meantime, he said, escalation of tensions on the peninsula should be avoided at all costs. Both Wang and Lavrov stressed opposition to South Korea’s possible deployment of THAAD, the advanced U.S. missile defense system that has been at the center of recent talks between Washington and Seoul. Wang said the system would “undermine security interests of China and Russia, destroy the strategic balance and trigger a regional arms race.” On March 7, Leon Panetta, a former U.S. defense secretary and CIA director, told VOA that ongoing THAAD talks might have pressed Beijing to support the latest U.N. sanctions on North Korea. Lavrov said Russia and China oppose using North Korea’s nuclear activity as justification for an increased military presence in the region, and that he hoped Pyongyang would heed U.N. Security Council appeals to return to the six-party talks. Some international relations experts say Beijing and Moscow have been forced to coordinate their positions on Pyongyang because Kim Jong Un refuses to compromise. “The problem of the Korean Peninsula is extremely important, and it has caused widespread concern among all parties. It is not only a headache for China but also for Russia,” said Dmitry Streltsov, a scholar with the Moscow State Institute of International Relations. “Since they don’t see the possibility of any improvement of the situation in the future, it is very important for China to find out about Russia’s bottom line on the issue. The two sides may also discuss any possibilities of taking joint actions.” Russian scholar Alexey Maslov, head of the Oriental Studies Department at the Russian Higher School of Economics Research University, said China is already taking a tougher stance on North Korea by restricting its supply of various material goods. Maslov said Russia should follow suit by reducing its own exports to North Korea. Maslov also said he thought Beijing supports Washington’s current position on North Korea. “We should also notice Wang Yi visited the United States recently, and even met with Secretary of State John Kerry,” he said. “This shows that on some international issues, especially the North Korean nuclear issue, China and the U.S. share the same position.” Lavrov said after meeting Wang that he expected political interaction between Russia and China “to be no less than last year,” and that the quality of economic and trade cooperation between the two countries would improve. Lavrov also announced that Chinese Premier Li Keqiang has accepted an invitation to visit Russia at the end of this year, and that this fall’s G20 summit in China’s Zhejiang province will provide another opportunity for improved Sino-Russian ties. Russian President Vladimir Putin briefly met with Wang today at the Kremlin, where he told Wang that he hoped to have in-depth discussions with Chinese President Xi Jinping during his visit to China this summer. Putin also hailed bilateral relations between the two countries and called for more economic cooperation and cultural exchanges. (Bai Hua, “China-Russia Talks Focus on North Korea,” VOA, March 11, 2016)

Lewis: “On March 9, KCNA and Rodong Sinmun announced that Kim Jong Un had visited a facility where he learned about North Korea’s progress in mating nuclear weapons to ballistic missiles. A subsequent television broadcast included more than dozen still images from the visit. Not only did Kim Jong Un pose with a number of missiles, including the KN-08, but he also posed with a model of compact nuclear weapon and modern reentry body. Here are the five things you need to know about Kim’s visit. 1. Kim might have been visiting the Chamjin Missile Factory outside of Pyongyang. North Korea did not announce the location of the visit, but a likely location is the North’s main missile production facility outside of Pyongyang, the Tae-sung Machine Factory (also known as the Chamjin Missile Factory). Michael Madden has matched the ceiling lights to the lone picture believed to have been taken at the site. The Tae-sung Machine Factory is located at: 38.951517°N, 125.568482°E. 2. The room is filled with a number of North Korean ballistic missiles. Although attention has understandably focused on the nuclear weapon sitting in front of Kim, the factory room contains two known modifications of the KN-08, unpainted Nodong missiles and what may be Musudan missiles. While most of the press reporting has focused on North Korea’s ICBM, the official announcement said that the North’s nuclear warheads “have been standardized to be fit for ballistic rockets by miniaturizing them.” That, along with the variety of missiles in the room, suggests North Korea plans to arm several types of missiles with nuclear warheads. 3. We know a lot more about the KN-08, including that it uses two Nodong engines. Since North Korea displayed the KN-08 ICBM during parades in 2012 and 2013, followed by a substantially modified version in 2015, analysts have attempted to estimate the missile’s design and performance. In 2013, John Schilling argued that the first stage of the KN-08 was most likely a pair of Nodong engines. Although the images do not provide quite enough detail to determine the type of engine, for the first time we can confirm that the first stage of the KN-08 Mod 1 comprises two engines. That increases our confidence in our estimates of the KN-08’s range and payload. The fact that both missiles are displayed, along with an analysis of the serial numbers, suggests that North Korea intends to deploy both variants of the KN-08. 4. North Korea has a more plausible reentry body. One of the big questions about North Korea’s nuclear program is whether or not North Korea can design a reentry vehicle that will protect the warhead during its journey from launch to target. The KN-08 missiles that North Korea paraded in 2012 and 2013 were almost certainly mock-ups. Although the quality of the mock-ups improved between parades, the nosecones were particularly unconvincing. North Korea has now shown a reentry body [7] that looks like early US and Soviet ones. The reentry body still hasn’t been tested, but this is the first credible reentry vehicle design that North Korea has displayed. 5. The nuclear weapon—a compact fission device—would be small enough for a missile. There has long been a debate about whether to take the DPRK’s claims to have “miniaturized” its nuclear weapons seriously. As I have argued previously, there is enough open source evidence to take seriously [8] the possibility that North Korea has developed a compact fission device that is approximately 60 cm in diameter and weighs between 200-300 kilograms. It is hard to make precise measurements at this size, but we assume the warheads fit inside the reentry body next to it. This would be similar to a Pakistani nuclear design that surfaced in Switzerland after the break-up of the A.Q. Khan network. The size of the object is consistent with these expectations. The device is not a classical two-stage thermonuclear weapon, but North Korean designers may use deuterium-tritium gas to “boost” the yield of the nuclear explosion. The object is probably a mockup, since nuclear weapons are filled with conventional explosives and would be very dangerous. Some US experts are skeptical—they don’t think the object looks right. It does not look like US devices, to be sure, but it is hard to know if aspects of the model are truly implausible or simply that North Korean nuclear weapons look different than their Soviet and American cousins. The size, however, is consistent with my expectations for North Korea. And it is hard to believe that, after four nuclear tests, the North Koreans can’t make a plausible mock-up. Kim Jong Un’s decision to pose with a nuclear weapon is not surprising. For several years now, North Korean officials have asserted that they have the capability to strike targets in the United States. North Korea has paraded variants of the KN-08 ICBM on three occasions, announced that previous nuclear tests were for the purpose of “miniaturizing” the North’s nuclear weapons, and published a map of the targets in the United States including Washington, DC. In response to these threats, US officials have consistently stated that North Korea has yet to demonstrate the full range of technologies necessary to target the United States. The images released on March 9 are intended to bolster the North’s deterrent in the face of such skepticism.” (Jeffrey Lewis, “Five Things You Need to Know about Kim Jong Un’s Photo Op with the Bomb,” Military Affairs, March 11, 2016)


3/12/16:
KPA General Staff statement: “Key Resolve and Foal Eagle 16 joint military exercises kicked off by the U.S. imperialists and the south Korean puppet forces are becoming more reckless as the days go by. The enemies are opening to public without hesitation that the largest-ever Ssangyong drill being staged in the Phohang area of south Korea is the climax of OPLAN 5015 to “bring down the social system” by striking the supreme headquarters and major core facilities in the DPRK through the “operation to advance into Pyongyang” accompanied by a sudden surprise landing on the DPRK. …The prevailing grave situation makes all the service personnel of the KPA discard the patience which they have long exercised. The KPA General Staff in charge of all operations of the revolutionary armed forces of the DPRK, upon the authorization of the dignified Supreme Command, formally declares the following military counteractions: From this moment, the first combined task units stationed in the eastern, central and western sectors of the front will go over to carrying out the operation for preemptive retaliatory strike at the enemy groups involved in the Ssangyong drill. It is the Juche-oriented counter-operation mode of the KPA to immediately contain and wipe out by force of arms troops and means involved in the operation the moment it judges their scenario to intrude into inviolable territory, air and waters over which the DPRK’s sovereignty is exercised. The KPA will counter the enemies’ landing drill aiming at “advance into Pyongyang” with the operation to liberate the whole of south Korea including Seoul and the enemies’ tactics of “high-density strike” with an ultra-precision blitzkrieg strike of the Korean style. Steadfast is the will of the KPA to mercilessly wipe out those troops hurled into the “operation for advancing into Pyongyang” and blow up the den of architects of it. Those who intend to launch aggression and war against the DPRK will be as most foolish and miserable as digging their own graves by themselves from that moment. The KPA is waiting for the moment to punish the aggressors, keeping them within its firing range. The gun roar for retaliating against the aggressors will turn out to be fireworks celebrating national reunification. The revolutionary armed forces of the DPRK holding tightly the arms to annihilate the enemies with towering hatred for them are waiting for the dignified Supreme Command to issue an order to launch a preemptive strike of justice on the aggressors.” (KCNA, “KPA Will Go over to Preemptive Retaliatory Strike: Its General Staff,” March 12, 2016)

The U.S. test-fired Minuteman-3 intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) on February 25. The U.S. impudently branded the DPRK’s satellite launch for peaceful purposes as a long-range missile launch. This brought to light the true colors of the U.S. as the arch criminal harassing global peace and security. It test-fired ICBM while incriminating the DPRK’s exercise of the right to use space for peaceful purposes. This is little short of an open declaration that it is the U.S. only in the world which can enjoy all rights and humankind should be dominated by it without condition. Pursuant to such brigandish logic, the U.S. conducted ceaseless nuclear tests of various types in a concealed manner despite the opposition of the international community and has conducted ICBM tests 15 times since 2011. These facts made clearer the fact that the U.S. scenario to block the space development by the DPRK is truly aimed to stifle and dominate it. …” (KCNA, KCNA Commentary Blasts Most Shameless U.S. DPRK Policy,” March 12, 2016)

Adm. William Gortney, commander of the U.S. Northern Command, told a hearing at the Senate Committee on the Armed Services he assesses that Pyongyang has the ability to “put an ICBM in space and range the continental United States and Canada.” The remark strongly suggests the possibility that the North has secured the atmospheric re-entry technology, one of the core technologies for intercontinental ballistic missiles. Gortney said, “It’s the prudent decision on my part to assume that he has the capability to … miniaturize a nuclear weapon and put it on an ICBM” and “range all of the states of the United States and Canada.” In October, he said he agreed to the analysis that Pyongyang was capable of making nuclear warheads small enough to be mounted on rockets to be delivered to the mainland U.S. Adm. Cecil Haney, head of the U.S. Strategic Command, also told the Congressional hearing that the U.S. should take such threats seriously as the North’s claims of nuclear development. Gortney’s assessment has a different nuance from the comments by the South Korean and the U.S. military authorities following the North’s announcement on Wednesday of its “success” in miniaturizing nuclear warheads. “We have not seen North Korea test or demonstrate the ability to miniaturize a nuclear weapon and put it on an ICBM (intercontinental ballistic missile),” Pentagon spokesman Bill Urban said Tuesday. “The U.S. government assessment has not changed.” In fact, many people from inside and outside of the U.S. government say Washington should not underestimate the North’s ICBM capabilities. U.S. Director of National Intelligence James Clapper said in his written report to Congress that Pyongyang “has already taken initial steps toward fielding this (KN-08) system, although the system has not been flight-tested.” Former U.S. Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta told the Voice of America on Tuesday that it had yet to be confirmed whether Pyongyang has the ability to deploy a nuclear warhead on top of an ICBM but will have the capabilities in the future, considering its continued ICBM launches and nuclear tests. (Dong-A Ilbo, “U.S. Officials Call for Preparations for N. Korea’s ICBM Capabilities,” March 12, 2016)


3/13/16:
U.S. and South Korean troops staged a big amphibious landing exercise on Saturday, storming simulated North Korean beach defenses amid heightened tension and threats by the North to annihilate its enemies. The landing and assault drills on South Korea’s east coast were part of eight weeks of joint exercises between the allies which the South has said are the largest ever. The North has denounced the exercises as “nuclear war moves” and threatened to respond with an all-out offensive. About 55 U.S. marine aircraft and 30 U.S. and South Korean ships, including the USS Bonhomme Richard and USS Boxer, which carry AV-8B Harrier attack jets and V-22 Osprey aircrafts, took part in the assault on beaches near Pohang city, the U.S. navy said. “They will penetrate notional enemy beach defenses, establish a beach head, and rapidly transition forces and sustainment ashore,” the U.S. military based in South Korea said in a statement before the exercise. (Do-gyun Kim, “U.S., South Korea Stage Assault Drill; North Korea Threatens to Wipe out Enemies,” Reuters, March 13, 2016)


3/14/16:
Repression remains unabated and the authorities in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) continue to exercise the strictest control over all aspects of its citizens’ lives, said the United Nations human rights expert Marzuki Darusman. “The totalitarian governing structure in North Korea absolutely denies rights to its people and its unchecked power appears as strongly entrenched as ever throughout the whole country,” he stressed. “The international community must ensure that the senior DPRK leadership, including Mr. Kim Jong Un, are held accountable for the crimes against humanity committed in the country,” the UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea urged today during the presentation of his last report* to the UN Human Rights Council. “In this extremely centralized and hierarchical ruling structure, where tight control is extended to the smallest unit of the society, the principle of command and superior responsibility should offer a plausible theory to hold the ‘Supreme Leader’ Mr. Kim Jong Un and most of the past and present senior leaders individually culpable,” he underscored. “Accountability for crimes against humanity must be an integral part of any discussion about the future of the Korean peninsula, including the scenario of a peace treaty,” he said. “As the term implies, crimes against humanity are a concern for all of humanity. Ensuring accountability for such crimes justly requires the international community to play a role.” The Special Rapporteur also highlighted the possible roles to be played by neighboring countries, like South Korea and Japan, which are State parties to the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court (ICC) that sets out the crimes falling within its jurisdiction and the mechanisms for States to cooperate with the ICC, among other things. He further touched upon the principle of universal jurisdiction that could open the possibility of prosecution in a second country. The Special Rapporteur called for the establishment of a group of experts to study possible accountability measures. “Now is a critical point in the history of the Korean people and the resolve of the international community to seek accountability for the crimes committed in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea will have the most profound impact on the lives of individuals and for human rights in Asia and further afield,” the Special Rapporteur concluded. (U.N. Human Rights Office Seoul, “Efforts to Hold DPRK’s Leadership Accountable Must Continue, U.N. Expert Urges in Last Report,” March 14, 2016)

Escalating threats from North Korea’s communist regime are indicators of a future military attack or another nuclear test in the coming days, according to a recent U.S. intelligence assessment. Intelligence agencies issued the assessment last week warning that threatening rhetoric from Pyongyang in response to large-scale U.S.-South Korean military exercises and new U.N. sanctions had reached the highest level in years. The unclassified assessment circulated within government states that the intense language suggests North Korea is preparing for a surprise military strike or a demonstration of strategic capability, such as a new long-range missile test or underground nuclear blast, according to U.S. officials familiar with the report. (Bill Gertz, “U.S. Says North Korea Rhetoric a Prelude to Attack,” Washington Free Beacon,” March 14, 2016)

Iran advanced its missile development with the help of North Korea, and the Middle Eastern nation may still rely on the communist nation for materials necessary for producing its ballistic missiles, a Congressional Research Service report said, noting that the intelligence community assessed until the latter 2000s that North Korean cooperation with Iran’s ballistic missile program was ongoing and significant. “Iran has likely exceeded North Korea’s ability to develop, test and build ballistic missiles. But Tehran may, to some extent, still rely on Pyongyang for certain materials for producing Iranian ballistic missiles, Iran’s claims to the contrary notwithstanding,” the report said. “For example, some observers argue that Iran may not be able to produce even its Scud B and Scud C equivalents — Shahab-1 and Shahab-2, respectively — without some foreign support for key materials or components,” it said. Nevertheless, however, Director of National Intelligence James Clapper stated during a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing in 2014 that Iran is not currently receiving assistance with its ICBM program. Clapper also said in February this year that there has “not been a great deal of interchange” between Iran and the North, it said.

The report said Syria continues to rely on North Korean and Iranian assistance for its missile program, noting that Defense Intelligence Agency Director Michael Flynn testified in 2013 that Syria’s liquid-propellant missile program — Scud B, Scud C and Scud D missiles — depends on “essential foreign equipment and assistance, primarily from North Korean entities.” On suspected nuclear cooperation between Iran and North Korea, the report said that the official U.S. assessment has been that there is no such cooperation between the two countries, even though some press reports have pointed to alleged cases of nuclear cooperation, such as the possibility of Iranian officials witnessing North Korean nuclear tests. “U.S. officials have stated publicly that there is no nuclear cooperation between Iran and North Korea,” the report said. “Knowledgeable current and former U.S. officials contacted by CRS said that they were unaware of official unclassified U.S. government evidence of nuclear cooperation between Iran and North Korea.” But the report cited then-Director of National Intelligence Dennis Blair saying in 2009 that Pyongyang could attempt to transfer nuclear technology and material across its border. “Pyongyang probably also perceives that it would risk a regime-ending military confrontation with the United States if the nuclear material was used by another country or group in a nuclear strike or terrorist attacks, and the United States could trace the material back to North Korea,” Blair was quoted as saying. “The North might find a nuclear weapons or fissile material transfer more appealing if its own stockpile grows larger and/or it faces an extreme economic crisis where the potentially huge revenue from such a sale could help the country survive.” (Yonhap, “Iran May Still Rely on N. Korea for Missile Materials,” Korea Herald, March 14, 2016)


3/15/16:
KCNA: “Scientists and technicians in the defense industry of the DPRK succeeded in the development and local production of heat-resisting materials for rocket with their own efforts and technology after having made painstaking researches of years under the direct guidance of supreme leader Kim Jong Un. Kim Jong Un, first secretary of the Workers’ Party of Korea (WPK), first chairman of the DPRK National Defense Commission and supreme commander of the Korean People’s Army, gave an order to conduct a test for estimating the heat stability of ballistic rocket warhead tip, designed and manufactured with indigenous efforts and technology, and the corrosion of heat-resistant coating material. And he guided an environmental simulation for reentry of the rocket warhead tip on the spot. The simulation was conducted in such a way as to verify the thermodynamic structural stability of newly-developed heat-resisting materials through measurement of corrosion and temperature on the tip under high pressure and thermal flow caused by aerodynamic heating when a ballistic rocket reenters the atmosphere. The test results met the requirements of all the technical parameters. The test proved that the tip’s thermodynamic structural stability is ensured under the pressure equivalent to actual environmental condition and heat flow about five times stronger than the condition caused at the time of ballistic rocket reentry and, after all, it provided a sure guarantee for the reliability of the inter-continental ballistic rocket warhead reentry. Very satisfied over the test results, Kim Jong Un said with high appreciation that the trustworthy scientists and technicians in the defense research field and workers in the munitions industry field true to the WPK’s revolutionary line of simultaneously developing the two fronts have made long strides in the rocket industry and nuclear technology this year when the Seventh Congress of the WPK is to be held. We have proudly acquired the reentry technology, possessed by a few countries styling themselves military powers, by dint of self-reliance and self-development, thus making great progress in the ballistic rocket technology that helps increase the independence of the country’s defense capability and munitions industry and remarkably enhance the invincible might of the powerful revolutionary Paektusan army, he added. The level of our advanced strike means, irrefutable in terms of science and technology, just shows the strength and dignity of our country, he said, stressing the need for the munitions industry to rapidly develop the defense science and technology and raise higher the level of putting the defense industry on a Juche-based, modern and scientific basis and thus develop and produce on the highest level more diverse and Korean-style military strike means and Juche-based rockets for realizing the Party Central Committee’s idea on the military strategy and tactics. Declaring that a nuclear warhead explosion test and a test-fire of several types of ballistic rockets capable of carrying nuclear warheads will be conducted in a short time to further increase the reliability of nuclear attack capability, he instructed the relevant field to make thorough prearrangement for them. He was accompanied by First Vice Department Director Ri Pyong Chol and Vice Department Director Kim Jong Sik of the WPK Central Committee and General Kim Rak Gyom, commander of the KPA Strategic Force.” (KCNA, “Kim Jong Un Guides Ballistic Rocket’s Reentry Environmental Simulation,” March 15, 2016) Bermudez and Kan: “On March 15, North Korean media carried photographs of Kim Jong Un as he observed and guided a test of the nose cone for what appears to be the KN-08 intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) reentry vehicle. The photographs show a vertical engine test stand that, while similar in structure to those at the Sohae and Tonghae Satellite Launch Facilities, is considerably smaller and more rudimentary. While the location of the test was not revealed, it appears that this test was conducted from the vertical engine test stand at the Chamjin Missile Factory southwest of Pyongyang, one of North Korea’s primary missile production facilities. Some experts believe that this factory was also the site of Kim Jong Un’s recent photo inspecting a nuclear warhead.” (Joseph Bermudez, Jr., and Henry Kan, “Location of KN-08 Reentry Vehicle Nosecone Test Identified,” 38North, March 23, 2016)

Executive Order 13722 of March 15, 2016:By the authority vested in me as President by the Constitution and the laws of the United States of America, including the International Emergency Economic Powers Act (50 U.S.C. 1701 et seq.) (IEEPA), the National Emergencies Act (50 U.S.C. 1601 et seq.), the United Nations Participation Act of 1945 (22 U.S.C. 287c) (UNPA), the North Korea Sanctions and Policy Enhancement Act of 2016 (Public Law 114-122), section 212(f) of the Immigration and Nationality Act of 1952 (8 U.S.C. 1182(f)), and section 301 of title 3, United States Code, and in view of United Nations Security Council Resolution (UNSCR) 2270 of March 2, 2016, I, BARACK OBAMA, President of the United States of America, find that the Government of North Korea’s continuing pursuit of its nuclear and missile programs, as evidenced most recently by its February 7, 2016, launch using ballistic missile technology and its January 6, 2016, nuclear test in violation of its obligations pursuant to numerous UNSCRs and in contravention of its commitments under the September 19, 2005, Joint Statement of the Six-Party Talks, increasingly imperils the United States and its allies. To address those actions, and to take additional steps with respect to the national emergency declared in Executive Order 13466 of June 26, 2008, as modified in scope and relied upon for additional steps in subsequent Executive Orders, I hereby order: Section 1. (a) All property and interests in property that are in the United States, that hereafter come within the United States, or that are or hereafter come within the possession or control of any United States person of the Government of North Korea or the Workers’ Party of Korea are blocked and may not be transferred, paid, exported, withdrawn, or otherwise dealt in. (b) The prohibitions in subsection (a) of this section apply except to the extent provided by statutes, or in regulations, orders, directives, or licenses that may be issued pursuant to this order or pursuant to the export control authorities implemented by the Department of Commerce, and notwithstanding any contract entered into or any license or permit granted prior to the effective date of this order. Sec. 2. (a) All property and interests in property that are in the United States, that hereafter come within the United States, or that are or hereafter come within the possession or control of any United States person of the following persons are blocked and may not be transferred, paid, exported, withdrawn, or otherwise dealt in: any person determined by the Secretary of the Treasury, in consultation with the Secretary of State: (i) to operate in any industry in the North Korean economy as may be determined by the Secretary of the Treasury, in consultation with the Secretary of State, to be subject to this subsection, such as transportation, mining, energy, or financial services; (ii) to have sold, supplied, transferred, or purchased, directly or indirectly, to or from North Korea or any person acting for or on behalf of the Government of North Korea or the Workers’ Party of Korea, metal, graphite, coal, or software, where any revenue or goods received may benefit the Government of North Korea or the Workers’ Party of Korea, including North Korea’s nuclear or ballistic missile programs; (iii) to have engaged in, facilitated, or been responsible for an abuse or violation of human rights by the Government of North Korea or the Workers’ Party of Korea or any person acting for or on behalf of either such entity; (iv) to have engaged in, facilitated, or been responsible for the exportation of workers from North Korea, including exportation to generate revenue for the Government of North Korea or the Workers’ Party of Korea; (v) to have engaged in significant activities undermining cybersecurity through the use of computer networks or systems against targets outside of North Korea on behalf of the Government of North Korea or the Workers’ Party of Korea; (vi) to have engaged in, facilitated, or been responsible for censorship by the Government of North Korea or the Workers’ Party of Korea; (vii) to have materially assisted, sponsored, or provided financial, material, or technological support for, or goods or services to or in support of, any person whose property and interests in property are blocked pursuant to this order; (viii) to be owned or controlled by, or to have acted or purported to act for or on behalf of, directly or indirectly, any person whose property and interests in property are blocked pursuant to this order; or (ix) to have attempted to engage in any of the activities described in subsections (a)(i)-(viii) of this section. (b) The prohibitions in subsection (a) of this section apply except to the extent provided by statutes, or in regulations, orders, directives, or licenses that may be issued pursuant to this order, and notwithstanding any contract entered into or any license or permit granted prior to the effective date of this order. The prohibitions in subsection (a) of this section are in addition to export control authorities implemented by the Department of Commerce. Sec. 3. (a) The following are prohibited: (i) the exportation or reexportation, direct or indirect, from the United States, or by a United States person, wherever located, of any goods, services, or technology to North Korea; (ii) new investment in North Korea by a United States person, wherever located; and (iii) any approval, financing, facilitation, or guarantee by a United States person, wherever located, of a transaction by a foreign person where the transaction by that foreign person would be prohibited by this section if performed by a United States person or within the United States. (b) The prohibitions in subsection (a) of this section apply except to the extent provided by statutes, or in regulations, orders, directives, or licenses that may be issued pursuant to this order or pursuant to the export control authorities implemented by the Department of Commerce, and notwithstanding any contract entered into or any license or permit granted prior to the effective date of this order. Sec. 4. I hereby find that the unrestricted immigrant and nonimmigrant entry into the United States of aliens determined to meet one or more of the criteria in subsection 2(a) of this order would be detrimental to the interests of the United States, and I hereby suspend entry into the United States, as immigrants or nonimmigrants, of such persons. Such persons shall be treated as persons covered by section 1 of Proclamation 8693 of July 24, 2011 (Suspension of Entry of Aliens Subject to United Nations Security Council Travel Bans and International Emergency Economic Powers Act Sanctions). Sec. 5. I hereby determine that the making of donations of the type of articles specified in section 203(b)(2) of IEEPA (50 U.S.C. 1702(b)(2)) by, to, or for the benefit of any person whose property and interests in property are blocked pursuant to section 1 or 2 of this order would seriously impair my ability to deal with the national emergency declared in Executive Order 13466, and I hereby prohibit such donations as provided by sections 1 and 2 of this order. Sec. 6. The prohibitions in sections 1 and 2 of this order include but are not limited to: (a) the making of any contribution or provision of funds, goods, or services by, to, or for the benefit of any person whose property and interests in property are blocked pursuant to this order; and (b) the receipt of any contribution or provision of funds, goods, or services from any such person. Sec. 7. (a) Any transaction that evades or avoids, has the purpose of evading or avoiding, causes a violation of, or attempts to violate any of the prohibitions set forth in this order is prohibited. (b) Any conspiracy formed to violate any of the prohibitions set forth in this order is prohibited. Sec. 8. Nothing in this order shall prohibit transactions for the conduct of the official business of the Federal Government or the United Nations (including its specialized agencies, programs, funds, and related organizations) by employees, grantees, or contractors thereof. Sec. 9. For the purposes of this order: (a) the term “person” means an individual or entity; (b) the term “entity” means a partnership, association, trust, joint venture, corporation, group, subgroup, or other organization; (c) the term “United States person” means any United States citizen, permanent resident alien, entity organized under the laws of the United States or any jurisdiction within the United States (including foreign branches), or any person in the United States; and (d) the term “Government of North Korea” means the Government of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea and its agencies, instrumentalities, and controlled entities. Sec. 10. For those persons whose property and interests in property are blocked pursuant to this order who might have a constitutional presence in the United States, I find that because of the ability to transfer funds or other assets instantaneously, prior notice to such persons of measures to be taken pursuant to this order would render those measures ineffectual. I therefore determine that for these measures to be effective in addressing the national emergency declared in Executive Order 13466, there need be no prior notice of a listing or determination made pursuant to section 1 or 2 of this order. Sec. 11. The Secretary of the Treasury, in consultation with the Secretary of State, is hereby authorized to take such actions, including the promulgation of rules and regulations, and to employ all powers granted to the President by IEEPA and the UNPA as may be necessary to carry out the purposes of this order. The Secretary of the Treasury may redelegate any of these functions to other officers and agencies of the United States Government consistent with applicable law. All agencies of the United States Government are hereby directed to take all appropriate measures within their authority to carry out the provisions of this order. Sec. 12. This order is not intended to, and does not, create any right or benefit, substantive or procedural, enforceable at law or in equity by any party against the United States, its departments, agencies, or entities, its officers, employees, or agents, or any other person. Sec. 13. This order is effective at 12:01 a.m. eastern daylight time on March 16, 2016. (U.S. Federal Register, Presidential Order, March 18. 2016)

President Barack Obama hit North Korea with new sanctions in response to the country’s “illicit” nuclear and ballistic missile tests earlier this year. An executive order signed by the president implements two sets of sanctions: those that unanimously cleared the U.N. Security Council and a separate round of U.S. sanctions signed by Obama February 18 after Congress overwhelmingly approved and sent him legislation. “These actions are consistent with our longstanding commitment to apply sustained pressure on the North Korean regime,” White House press secretary Josh Earnest said. “The U.S. and the global community will not tolerate North Korea’s illicit nuclear and ballistic missile activities, and we will continue to impose costs on North Korea until it comes into compliance with its international obligations.” The executive order prohibits the exportation of goods, services and technology to North Korea and prohibits new investment in North Korea. It also establishes nine new criteria allowing the Treasury Department to target North Korea’s human rights abuses, censorship, cybersecurity threats, trade in metals, graphite, coal, or software; revenue from overseas workers; and attempts to engage in those activities. Individuals employed in North Korea’s transportation, mining, energy or financial services industries may also be subject to sanctions. (Darlene Superville, “Obama Sanctions N. Korea for Nuclear, Missile Tests,” Associated Press, March 16, 2016)


3/16/16:
KCNA: “The Supreme Court of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea on Wednesday held a trial on Otto Frederick Warmbier, a student at the University of Virginia, the United States who was arrested on the charge of anti-DPRK hostile acts. Attending the trial as observers were citizens from different walks of life. The trial examined the case of Otto Frederick Warmbier, accused of violation of Article 60 of the DPRK Criminal Code (State Subversion Charge). A written indictment confirming his crimes was submitted and there were inquiries into the facts of the case. In the course of the inquiry, the accused confessed to the serious offense against the DPRK he had committed, pursuant to the U.S. government’s hostile policy toward it, in a bid to impair the unity of its people after entering it as a tourist. The court sentenced him to fifteen years of hard labor.” (KCNA, “American Student Sentenced to 15 Years of Hard Labor in the DPRK,” March 16, 2016) An American college student who tearfully apologized for trying to steal a political propaganda poster from his hotel in Pyongyang, the North Korean capital, was sentenced to 15 years of prison and hard labor. The punishment of the student, Otto F. Warmbier, infuriated the White House and elicited strong condemnations from other officials and rights activists. Even by North Korea’s standards, the punishment for Warmbier appeared to be extreme for an act that might amount to a harmless misdemeanor elsewhere. Josh Earnest, the White House press secretary, said that it was “increasingly clear that the North Korean government intends to use these citizens as pawns,” and that Warmbier’s arrest demonstrated why it was hazardous to visit North Korea. Gov. John Kasich of Ohio, a Republican candidate for president, said in a statement on his website that Warmbier’s detention “was completely unjustified and the sentence North Korea imposed on him is an affront to concepts of justice.” Phil Robertson, the deputy Asia director for Human Rights Watch, said that the punishment of “15 years’ hard labor for a college-style prank is outrageous and shocking.” Warmbier’s punishment was announced less than a day after Bill Richardson, a former governor of New Mexico met with two North Korean officials in New York to urge Warmbier’s release on humanitarian grounds. “An unfortunate development but a familiar pattern with American detainees,” Richardson said in an email. “Hopefully a prelude to negotiations that might lead to a release on humanitarian grounds.” (Choe Sang-Hun and Rick Gladstone, “North Korea Gives U.S. Student a 15-Year Sentence,” New York Times, March 17, 2016, p. A-8)

Sydney Seiler, senior advisor to the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (DNI) said that the United States has always made great efforts for talks with North Korea but that such efforts have never evolved to negotiations. The former U.S. special envoy for the six-party talks made the remark at an undisclosed forum held in Washington last week hosted jointly by South Korea’s state-run Korea Institute for National Unification and the U.S. Center for a New American Security. “It seems that the United States does not want to have deep negotiations for a peace agreement with the North Korean regime,” Choi Jin-wook, president of the Korea Institute for National Unification, said in an interview with Dong-A Ilbo. Choi quoted the U.S. official as saying that when the U.S. asked the North about its willingness to include its denuclearization into the agendas for peace negotiations which Pyongyang demanded, the North took a step back, refusing to negotiate its denuclearization. Choi also quoted Seiler as saying, “The U.S. does not take peace negotiations (with the North) seriously. South Koreans misunderstand the issue. The U.S. will never put South Korea on the sidelines.” According to Choi, Seiler also said that the North’s call for a peace agreement is an offensive aimed at undermining the Seoul-Washington alliance and rationalize Pyongyang’s nuclear development. Seiler added the North is well aware that negotiations on a peace agreement will not take place any time soon. However, Seiler said that it is necessary to have dialogue with the North to ease tensions on the Korean Peninsula, according to Choi. “Don’t be overconfident about U.S. deterrence against the North. It is not the deterrence that keeps the North from making provocations. Therefore, there is no need to be sensitive about the U.S. trying to have talks with the North to ease tensions,” the U.S. official was quoted as saying. Choi said Seiler stressed U.S. efforts for talks with the North, showing a name card of a senior official at the North Korean Permanent Mission to the United Nations he kept in his diary. (Dong-A Ilbo, “U.S. Will Not Sideline S. Korea in Peace Talks with N. Korea: U.S. Official,” March 17, 2016)

North Korea tested a new submarine-launched ballistic missile (SLBM), two weeks after the U.N. Security Council (UNSC) slapped its latest sanctions in response to Pyongyang’s nuclear and missile tests in January and February, according to the Washington Free Beacon. Citing defense officials, it reported March 22 that a “pop-up” or “ejection test” of a KN-11 missile was carried out from a canister at the Sinpo shipyard on North Korea’s east coast. The site is where a KN-11 missile is under development along with the new Sinpo-class submarine that can carry ballistic missiles. Both the U.S. and South Korean governments refused to verify the report. “We’re not going to comment on matters of intelligence,” U.S Department of Defense spokesman Cmdr. Bill Urban was quoted as saying by the Beacon. “It’s a matter of intelligence and we can’t confirm whether the report is true or not,” Ministry of Defense spokesman Moon Sang-Gyun said March 23. If confirmed, the test will be in violation the UNSC’s Resolution 2270 approved on March 2. (Yi Whan-woo, “N.K. Fires SLBM in Violation of Un Sanctions: Report,” Korea Times, March 23, 2016)

China has strengthened inspections of North Korean cargo transiting through its three northeastern border provinces, while some North Korean restaurants in China have closed their doors, a government source said. “The circumstances are that Beijing has increased the number of customs officials to conduct near-complete inspections of all cargo going to and from the North,” the source said. “This situation has in fact been observed.” (Yonhap, “China Strengthens N.K. Cargo Inspections: Source,” Korea Herald, March 16, 2016)

To view the humbling limits of round after round of international sanctions against North Korea, come to Masik Pass. It isn’t a secret military facility where Kim Jong Un’s best and brightest are hard at work developing nuclear warheads and long-range missiles. It’s a ski resort. The U.N. has been trying for years to punish North Korea for its nuclear program by barring trade not only in weapons but in luxury items, in hopes of making Pyongyang’s elite feel some pain. If they feel pain at Masik Pass, it’s more likely because they’ve had a tumble on their French Rossignol skis. The resort boasts the amenities of a first-world ski destination — a luxury hotel, a half-dozen upscale restaurants and a well-equipped, professionally staffed ski rental shop. Visitors can stock up on European chocolates, drink their fill of Heineken beer, even buy T-shirts with themselves and the slopes Photoshopped and emblazoned across the back. Imported snowmobiles from China were buzzing up and down its slopes even as the U.N. Security Council was discussing how to crack down after the North’s latest nuclear test in January and subsequent rocket launch. Despite an occasional power outage, its Doppelmayr chairlifts from Austria were working just fine. To its critics, Masik Pass is a shining example of how Kim’s regime has been able to pour resources into prestige projects and flaunt restrictions designed to block its access to imported luxury items, set through four prior rounds of U.N. sanctions. Part of the problem is that countries disagree over what items are banned. Masik is also important because it is a signature project of Kim Jong Un himself. It opened in 2013, just two years after Kim, who lived in Switzerland when he was a teenager, assumed power. Adding salt to the wounds of ardent sanctions supporters, the resort has become a big hit with Western tourists. Though exact figures on how many have gone and how much they have spent are not available, Masik Pass is part of package tours offered by the main tourism agencies that specialize in North Korea, which has for several years been trying hard to build its still-nascent tourism sector. Andreas Hofer, a well-traveled skier and lawyer from Austria who recently visited the resort, described it as “surprising, and full of unexpected luxury.” He rated its slopes as somewhat less than stellar for the true ski enthusiast, but gave it bonus points for being among the most exotic ski locations on the planet. “Nobody from abroad will come for the skiing only,” he said in an interview by email. “They want to have an idea about new ways and developments in North Korea. And the hospitality and friendliness and welcoming are ample compensation for the more limited skiing.” North Korea, which obviously opposes the sanctions, argues that skiing isn’t a luxury anyway, but a sport for the masses. Masik, it claims, has opened up the door for the country to provide large numbers of common people with recreation enjoyed by millions all over the world. It’s a facility where the North can train serious skiers who may one day compete internationally, maybe even in the upcoming Winter Games — which, it’s worth noting, will be held in Pyeongchang, South Korea, in 2018. Indeed, most skiers on Masik are North Korean. Many come in groups organized by their work units, trade or community associations or schools. The prices for North Koreans are far lower than for foreigners and the lodgings are much more modest. But Washington, the strongest advocate of sanctions, sees Masik within the larger context of cracking down on any income streams Pyongyang can use to fund its nuclear program, or reward the North Korean elite for their loyalty to the regime. “We have eyes on how they spend their money, what they look at, what merchandise, what goods that they purchase from abroad. We try to target those to limit, frankly, their ability to enjoy themselves,” State Department spokesman Mark Toner said at a recent news conference. Actually cracking down, however, has been a challenge. According to the latest U.N. Security Council report examining enforcement of sanctions, efforts have been severely undermined by the North’s ability to use its diplomatic missions abroad to get the goods it wants. It also has acquired goods in roundabout ways that involve passage through multiple countries. Manufacturers, it said, often have “no idea about their final destination.” The report also noted that not all countries agree on what they are supposed to be banning to begin with. Sanctioned luxury items range from caviar and gems to yachts and limousines. But each country is essentially allowed to choose what it does or does not ban. That gives the North a lot of wiggle room. In a section devoted to Masik Pass, the report said Beijing acknowledges Chinese companies provided ski lifts and other equipment but said it was “of the view that skiing is a popular sport for people, and ski equipment or relative services are not included in the list of prohibited luxury goods.” Other countries interpreted the same luxury goods category to include such things as snowmobiles and certain makes of snow groomers. “This creates a situation of uneven practice by member states,” the report concluded. Masik’s success and past failures to enforce sanctions have exasperated Washington. “China does not enforce the mandated ban on luxury goods,” Bonnie Glaser, of the Center for Strategic and International Studies, said in testimony before the U.S. Congress in January. “Chinese customs data shows that North Korea imported $2.09 billion worth of luxury goods between 2012 and 2014.” Her conclusion? Washington should consider sanctioning Beijing, too. The latest sanctions on North Korea, announced by the Security Council earlier this month, try to close some of those loopholes. Explicitly banned are “luxury watches: wrist, pocket, and other with a case of precious metal or of metal clad with precious metal;” ‘’aquatic recreational vehicles (such as personal watercraft);” ‘’items of lead crystal;” and “recreational sports equipment.” And just to make sure everyone is on the same page, the Security Council added: “snowmobiles (valued greater than $2,000).” (Eric Talmadge, “N. Korean Ski Resort’s Amenities Defy UN Luxury-Imports Ban,” Associated Press, March 16, 2016)


3/17/16:
China expressed its opposition to unilateral sanctions against North Korea saying they could raise tension, after the United States imposed new curbs on the isolated country in retaliation for its nuclear and rocket tests. The so-called secondary sanctions will compel banks to freeze the assets of anyone who breaks the blockade, potentially squeezing out North Korea’s business ties, including those with China. Asked whether China was worried the sanctions could affect “normal” business links between Chinese banks and North Korea, Foreign Ministry spokesman Lu Kang said this was something China was “paying attention to.” “First, as I’ve said many times before, China always opposes any country imposing unilateral sanctions,” Lu told a daily news briefing. “Second, under the present situation where the situation on the Korean Peninsula is complex and sensitive, we oppose any moves that may further worsen tensions there.” “Third, we have clearly stressed many times in meetings with the relevant county, any so-called unilateral sanctions imposed by any country should neither affect nor harm China’s reasonable interests.” (Ben Blanchard, “China Says Opposes Unilateral Sanctions on North Korea,” Reuters, March 17, 2016)

A senior U.S. official came out strongly against major powers in East Asia pursuing nuclear reprocessing that nonproliferation experts warn could lead to spiraling quantities of weapons-usable material in a tense region. Assistant Secretary of State Thomas Countryman, who heads the State Department’s Bureau of International Security and Nonproliferation, told a Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing that the reprocessing of spent nuclear fuel “has little if any economic justification” and raises concerns about nuclear security and nonproliferation. The administration appears to be elevating its public expressions of concern over plans by Japan and China to produce plutonium for energy generation — a technology that South Korea also aspires to have. Countryman’s unusually critical comments come as President Barack Obama prepares to host more than 50 world leaders for a nuclear security summit in Washington at the end of this month. The committee’s chairman, Sen. Bob Corker (R-TN), accused the Obama administration of encouraging reprocessing despite the concern over proliferation. Corker pointed to the renegotiation a civilian nuclear cooperation agreement with China last year that allows the reprocessing of fuel from U.S.-designed reactors for nonmilitary purposes. It is similar to the arrangement the U.S. has with close ally Japan. The U.S. has deferred a decision on giving similar consent to another close ally, South Korea, but has not ruled it out. “We’re not calling for a plutonium time-out like we could have done,” Corker told the hearing. Countryman denied that the administration has encouraged reprocessing. He said China, which unlike Japan and South Korea has nuclear weapons, already had the capability to reprocess on its own. “I would be very happy to see all countries get out of the plutonium reprocessing business,” Countryman said. Japan began building a major reprocessing plant with French state-owned company Areva in the early 1990s. The project has been plagued by delays and cost overruns, and in November, its opening was postponed until 2018 to allow for more safety upgrades and inspections. China, meanwhile, has been negotiating with Areva for a plant on a similar scale. Sen. Ed Markey (D-MA) warned of a domino effect in East Asia, saying if Japan and China went ahead with their plants, there would be pressure on South Korea to pursue its own reprocessing efforts, and that could undermine any U.S. efforts to get North Korea to give up its nuclear weapons. Countryman said the U.S. has raised with France its concerns about the dynamics in Asia, a region steeped in historical rivalries dating back to World War II and beyond. “There is a degree of competition among the major powers in East Asia. It is a competition that in my view extends into irrational spheres, such as, ‘Hey, they have this technology, we have got to have it, too.’ No matter (that) it is a technology that makes no economic sense and that would not improve their standing in their world,” he said. In Beijing, Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz voiced concern about China’s plans for its first commercial-scale reprocessing plant. He told The Wall Street Journal that China’s recent announcements that it would press ahead with the facility “certainly isn’t a positive in terms of nonproliferation.” (Matthew Pennington, “U.S. Official Comes out Strongly against Major Powers in East Asia Pursuing Nuclear Reprocessing,” Associated Press, March 17, 2016)


3/18/16:
North Korea launched two Nodong missiles in the latest show of force against the ongoing joint military exercises between South Korea and the United States, but one appears to have blown up mid-flight, military sources said. The Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS) said one ballistic missile was fired around 5:55 a.m. from Sukchon located in the western part of the country. The missile, believed to be a mid-range Nodong model, flew about 800 kilometers across North Korea before falling into waters off the country’s east coast. “The missile dropped into waters within the Japanese Air Defense Identification Zone,” the JCS said. Military sources said the North did not declare a no-sail zone for the launch — it is required under international conventions to give prior warnings to ships passing through the area. About 22 minutes after the first launch, the South Korean military’s radar detected what appeared to be a second missile fired from the same area. But the radar lost track of it at an altitude of 17 km, the JCS said. According to military sources, the second missile may have exploded in the air briefly after takeoff, without reaching its target area. “An analysis so far indicates it was a missile, but more examination is needed to verify the data,” the JCS said. Military officials here said the first ballistic missile appears to have been launched from a transporter erector launcher, a mobile missile vehicle. It is North Korea’s first firing of the mid-range Rodong missile in about two years. With a maximum range of 1,300 km, the Rodong puts all of South Korea and part of Japan within striking distance. (Yonhap, “N. Korea Fires Two Ballistic Missiles; One Blows up in Flight,” March 18, 2016)

North Korea has yet to master ballistic missile technology that can allow a warhead to re-enter the Earth’s atmosphere after flying through space, Seoul’s top defense official said, refuting Pyongyang’s claims that it can build an inter-continental ballistic missile (ICBM). A re-entry vehicle protects a ballistic missile’s warhead through the course of its flight, including the re-entry stage. Without proper protection, a missile’s warhead will burn up from the heat and pressure. The North said its test subjected the re-entry vehicle to 1,500 to 1,600 degrees Celsius of intense heat. Defense Minister Han Min-koo said during his appearance on a local broadcast news program that existing re-entry vehicles can withstand upwards to 7,000 degrees Celsius of heat in addition to other types of ablation effects like extreme pressure and vibrations. “I don’t think North Korea has gained the re-entry technology in this test and many experts also share that point,” he said. On its efforts to make small nuclear weapons that can be mounted onto ballistic missiles, North Korea may have made significant strides, although the country’s claim to own a real nuclear warhead is dubious, Han noted. “North Korea has steadily conducted nuclear tests, and now it has become a realistic threat,” the defense chief said, adding that the South Korean military is maintaining its readiness posture to deal with any threats. North Korea has come very far in diversifying and making its missile arsenal more sophisticated, he said, referring to the country’s programs for the submarine launched ballistic missile and the KN-08 intercontinental missile. North Korea is technically ready to conduct an additional nuclear test at any time, he also noted, saying that another nuclear test can take place at a moment’s notice. “We should squarely face the fact that North Korea’s nuclear weapons are aimed at South Korea, not other countries,” Han pointed out, calling for public support for denuclearizing of the North. (Yonhap, “N. Korea Has Yet to Master Re-Entry Technology for ICBM: Defense Minister,” March 18, 2016)

U.N. Security Council statement: “The Members of the Security Council strongly condemned and expressed grave concern at the ballistic missile launches conducted by the DPRK on March 18 and on March 10. The Members of the Security Council stressed that all these launches were unacceptable, constituted a clear violation of UN Security Council resolutions 1718 (2006), 1874 (2009), 2087 (2013), 2094 (2013), 2270 (2016), and posed a threat to regional and international security. The Members of the Security Council reiterated that the DPRK shall refrain from further actions in violation of the relevant Security Council resolutions and comply fully with its obligations under these resolutions. Recalling the Security Council’s unanimous adoption of resolution 2270 (2016) on March 2, the Members of the Security Council expressed grave concern over the DPRK’s reaction to that resolution and its demands. The Members of the Security Council therefore are determined to ensure that resolution 2270 (2016) is implemented fully. In light of these recent violations, the Members of the Security Council emphasized the importance of the work of Security Council’s Committee established pursuant to resolution 1718 (2006) and urged all Member States to redouble their efforts to implement the measures imposed in all relevant Security Council resolutions. The Members of the Security Council reiterated the importance of maintaining peace and stability on the Korean Peninsula and in north-east Asia at large, and expressed their commitment to a peaceful, diplomatic and political solution to the situation and welcomed efforts by Council members as well as other States to facilitate a peaceful and comprehensive solution through dialogue. The Members of the Security Council agreed that the Security Council would continue to closely monitor the situation and act as appropriate.” (UN Press Spokesman, “Democratic People’s Republic of Korea Launches,” March 18, 2016)

The chief nuclear envoys of South Korea and China held talks about how to better implement fresh U.N. sanctions targeting North Korea’s nuclear and missile programs, a Seoul diplomat said. The talks between Kim Hong-kyun, South Korea’s special representative for Korean Peninsula peace and security affairs and his Chinese counterpart Wu Dawei come as North Korea fired two mid-range ballistic missiles into the East Sea earlier in the day in its latest defiance of U.N. resolutions. How to ensure the effectiveness of the new U.N. sanctions as well as North Korea’s latest launch of ballistic missiles were expected to top the agenda of the Friday talks, a Seoul diplomat who was involved in the meeting said. “This morning, North Korea launched a ballistic missile in violation of Security Council resolutions,” Kim told Yonhap by phone before boarding his plane. “I plan to share assessments of the threat of North Korea’s provocations and focus on discussing overall ways to change the North’s thinking and behavior through the faithful implementation of the Security Council resolution.” The ministry said it expects Friday’s meeting to contribute to close coordination among South Korea, China and the U.S. over the North Korean nuclear issue. “I plan to hold talks with the Chinese side on ways to diversify dialogue within the context of the six-party talks, including trilateral talks involving South Korea, the U.S. and China, and five-party talks,” Kim said. (Yonhap, “S. Korean Chinese Envoys Discuss U.N. Sanctions on N. Korea,” March 18, 2016) China is open to three-way talks with South Korea and the United States on implementing new U.N. sanctions targeting North Korea’s nuclear and missile programs, South Korea’s chief nuclear envoy said March 19 after meeting with his Chinese counterpart. Kim Hong-kyun, South Korea‘s special representative for Korean Peninsula peace and security affairs, also said he and his Chinese counterpart, Wu Dawei, shared “concerns” about North Korea’s test-launch of two mid-range ballistic missiles a day ago. “In order to cooperate on the process of implementing U.N. resolutions, we proposed holding a three-way consultation among South Korea, the U.S. and China,” Kim told a group of South Korean correspondents in Beijing. “In response, the Chinese side said it will review the proposal in an open-minded manner,” Kim said. South Korea and China agreed that, “North Korea must not take further actions that violate U.N. resolutions.” “By earnestly implementing the U.N. resolutions, both sides agreed that it is important (for relevant countries) to create a situation where North Korea has no choice but to change its course,” Kim said. (Yonhap, “China Open to 3-Way Talks with S. Korea, U.S. on N. Korea Sanctions, Korea Herald, March 19, 2016)

Vincent Brooks, the current commanding general of the U.S. Army Pacific, has been tapped as the new head of the U.S. Forces Korea. Brooks is to replace USFK Commander Curtis Scaparrotti, who becomes NATO’s top military commander. A source in Washington said Brooks has yet to be formally appointed, but the U.S. Defense Department “is in the process of making the appointment official.” A graduate of West Point, Brooks became the academy’s first African-American Cadet First Captain, the highest position a cadet can hold. He is considered a firm supporter of U.S. President Barack Obama’s “pivot to Asia” doctrine and keenly follows South Korean, North Korean and Chinese military developments. (Chosun Ilbo, “U.S. Pacific Commander Tapped as New USFK Chief,” March 18, 2016)


3/20/16:
North Korean drones that crashed in South Korea near the inter-Korean border in March and April of 2014 two years ago were too poorly built to carry any threatening weapons, a government source said Sunday, citing the results of a close analysis by a South Korean military research agency. Three unmanned aerial vehicles, or drones, that had crashed were found. The government source in Seoul said that the Agency for Defense Development (ADD) has restored the three drones and conducted flight tests with them before concluding that they are incapable of carrying weapons weighing 3 or more kilograms. “The ADD has successfully restored the three North Korean drones and flown them to gauge their actual performance,” the official said. “The drones failed to carry weapons weighing 3 to 4 kilograms. Instead they were only able to carry a grenade-level object weighing 400 to 900 grams.” He added that engines and cameras found in the North Korean drones were all low-grade and built in the 1980s. Despite their poor quality, however, the North Korean drones are hard for radars to detect, the official said, adding that the South Korean military’s relevant radar system is being reinforced to deal with the problem. (Yonhap, “Flight Tests of Restored N.K. Drones Reveal Lack of Threat,” March 20, 2016)


3/21/16:
North Korea fired five short-range missiles into the sea off its east coast — the latest in a series of launches ordered by leader Kim Jong-Un amid rising military tensions. An official with South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff said the five short-range missiles were launched from near the eastern city of Hamhung, beginning just before 3:20pm (0620 GMT), and landed in the East Sea (Sea of Japan). (Hwang Sung-hee, “N. Korea Fires Five Short-Range Missiles into Sea,” AFP, March 21, 2016)

Among South Korean members of families divided by the Korean War who have applied for a chance to meet their relatives in the North, the number of the dead has exceeded the number of the living for the first time. This reflects the rapidly increasing age of these family members. When Hankyoreh checked a database of divided families managed by the Unification Ministry and the South Korean Red Cross on Mar. 20, it found that, of the 130,838 South Koreans who had applied for reunions with family members in North Korea between 1988 and the present (Feb. 29), 65,922 (50.4%) were deceased, while 64,916 (49.6%) were still alive. Of the reunion applicants who have passed away, 37,897 (57.4%) were 90 or older while 23,117 (35.1%) were between 80 and 90 years old. This means that 92.6% of the total deceased were at least 80 years old at the time of death. Of the survivors, 53,479 (82.4%) are 70 or older, while 36,754 (56.6%) are at least 80 years old. (Lee Je-hun, “For First Time, More Divided Families Dead Than Alive,” Hankyoreh, March 21, 2016)

Bradley Babson: “Coupled with South Korea’s closure of the Kaesong Industrial Complex in February, the new economic measures could significantly dampen North Korea’s income from abroad. However, several provisions in UNSCR 2270 substantially reduce the likelihood of a catastrophe like North Korea faced in the 1990s. For instance: The effectiveness of new curbs on North Korean exports of coal, iron and other minerals is unclear because potential buyers are only obligated to turn back shipments when there are grounds to believe that proceeds would finance North Korea’s military. This onus of proof may develop into a point of contention during implementation, depending on what evidence Member States actually require to deny such shipments. The resolution excludes oil imports from China and elsewhere from sanctions, with the exception of aviation and missile fuel. Oil shipments, mainly from China, will likely enable North Korean domestic industry and transport to continue without significant disruption, depending on China’s policy for such shipments to the North going forward. UNSCR 2270 does not affect trade for livelihood and humanitarian purposes that produces foreign exchange earnings (i.e., in seafood and textiles), unless there is cause to believe that the military would benefit from proceeds. The burden of judgment on this matter would fall on the importer or exporter, who may well lack adequate information with which to deny transactions. Assessing dual-use potential may prove problematic for many organizations involved in such trade with North Korea. The sanctions exclude remittances from workers in foreign countries and foreign exchange earnings from tourism, both of which have been growing in recent years. Informal cross-border barter trade that feeds North Korean markets may also avoid mandated inspections. In addition, North Korea’s economy appears potentially more resilient than in the 1990s in two key respects: markets now play a much larger role in meeting basic daily needs and Kim Jong Un’s regime has tolerated a degree of related growth in private initiative and business acumen. These internal developments, seen in the context of North Korea’s continued pursuit of economic “self-reliance” through new domestic replacements for consumer imports and outsourced industrial capacities, suggest that its economy may be surprisingly resilient to the impact of the new sanctions, potentially encouraging continued defiance from North Korean leaders. It is crucial, then, to consider how the new sanctions may affect the North’s byungjin policy—the two-track strategy of expanding its nuclear and missile programs while developing its economy. The resolution’s impact on this strategic calculation will be evident in the leadership’s future levels of support from key constituencies in the military, the Workers’ Party of Korea and inner elite cadres. An important question will be how the regime balances its essential military needs and national pride against the management of economic challenges amplified by the sanctions. In the past, entrenched economic interests in the military have significantly compromised the government’s stated effort to improve the livelihoods of ordinary North Koreans, despite steps to broaden the Cabinet’s authority to direct economic policy and manage the economy. North Korea has creatively circumvented earlier UN sanctions, and the new resolution aims to correct many deficiencies in past measures. By increasing restrictions on banking relationships, requiring inspections of all ingoing and outgoing shipments, tightening rules for handling diplomatic infractions, and expanding lists of designated firms and individuals, the new resolution is intended to increase the difficulty and cost of North Korea’s attempted end runs around the sanctions regime. But how effectively will these additional restrictions prevent North Korea from exploiting further loopholes and shifting to new evasive methods? It can certainly be expected to probe for weak spots in their enforcement, and to find creative alternate channels. Given the international community’s less-than-stellar compliance with past North Korea sanctions, the success of these costly new measures will depend on the UNSC’s ability to convince Member States to follow through with implementation. China’s willingness to commit to the new sanctions remains an area of particular concern. The measures will, to a large degree, succeed or fail as a result of on-the-ground implementation by Chinese local authorities, companies and banks that have wide ranging dealings with North Korea. However, even a concerted sanctions implementation effort by Beijing will be complicated by China’s decentralized approach to economic engagement with the DPRK. For coal and iron restrictions, a critical measure of success will be the frequency with which Chinese authorities block specific transactions on the basis that they would benefit North Korea’s military. However, a sobering truth is that it may not be at all obvious that specific transactions will actually be used for military purposes, and both sides will have incentives to allow shipments to the extent that there is business demand for continued trade. Meanwhile, implementation of the inspection requirement—of all shipments to and from North Korea—would ideally involve systematic checks of all North Korean truck or rail shipments that cross the border in the Dandong and Rason regions. It must be noted, though, that a tightened inspection regime may well lead to incentives for expanded clandestine cross-border dealings, especially if North Korean security services determine that the country could benefit from scaling back its anti-smuggling efforts. Ironically, UNSCR 2270 may help to accelerate domestic economic reforms in North Korea, altering incentives for economic policy and practices in ways that may result in longer-term benefits for North Korea’s economy and population. For instance: The resolution could create new incentives to reduce the DPRK’s heavy reliance on coal, iron and other minerals for export earnings. This dependence on unprocessed natural resources has reduced incentives to invest in human resources and value-added manufacturing, even though such investment would be more beneficial for North Korean workers and economic productivity. The new sanctions may create more opportunity for state enterprises and private entrepreneurs to expand the role of market-based economic activity. More flexible labor practices may also allow a greater role for market mechanisms in allocating workers, potentially increasing efficiency and contributing to both domestic demand and international competitiveness in non-sanctioned economic activities. The government may seek to provide assistance for workers most affected by the sanctions. It may prioritize use of its PDS as a social safety net rather than a resource for less vulnerable constituencies. As the donju (moneyed) entrepreneurial class gains increasing levels of control over significant business activities, there is less of a need for the regime to rely on patronage to maintaining the loyalty of the elite, most of whom now have incentives and opportunities to make money in the market economy. Even though financial sanctions imposed by UNSCR 2270 target North Korea’s ability to use the international financial system to support its trade and foreign business interests, the impact on the country’s domestic financial system will be mainly to increase macroeconomic management challenges and efforts to control the role of foreign currencies in the markets. North Korean financial authorities have been making timid efforts to improve financial system management and services to businesses and households in recent years. The impact of sanctions is thus likely to spur greater efforts to implement long-overdue reforms in the North’s financial system and macroeconomic management capabilities.” (Bradley O. Babson, “UNSCR 2270: The Good, the Bad and the Perhaps Surprising Opportunity for the North Korean Economy,” 38North, March 21, 2016)

Trump interview: “…HIATT: So what do you think China’s aims are in the South China Sea? TRUMP: Well I know China very well, because I deal with China all the time. I’ve done very well. China’s unbelievably ambitious. China is, uh… I mean, when I deal with China, you know, I have the Bank of America building, I’ve done some great deals with China. I do deals with them all the time on, you know, selling apartments, and, you know, people say ‘oh that’s not the same thing.’ The level of… uh, the largest bank in the world, 400 million customers, is a tenant of mine in New York, in Manhattan. The biggest bank in China. The biggest bank in the world. China has got unbelievable ambitions. China feels very invincible. We have rebuilt China. They have drained so much money out of our country that they’ve rebuilt China. Without us, you wouldn’t see the airports and the roadways and the bridges; I mean, the George Washington Bridge is like, that’s like a trinket compared to the bridges that they’ve built in China. We don’t build anymore, and it, you know, we had our day. But China, if you look at what’s going on in China, you know, they go down to seven percent or eight percent and it’s like a national catastrophe. Our GDP is right now zero. Essentially zero. DIEHL: Could you use trade to cause them to retreat in the South China Sea? TRUMP: I think so, yeah. I think so DIEHL: What would you do? TRUMP: We, well, you start making it tougher. They’re selling their products to us for… you know, with no tax, no nothing. By the way, we can’t deal with them, but they can deal with us. See, we are free trade. The story is, and I have so many people that deal with China –they can easily sell their product here. No tax, no nothing, just ‘come on, bring it all in, you know, bring in your apples, bring in everything you make’ and no taxes whatsoever, right? If you want to deal with China, it’s just the opposite. You can’t do that. In other words, if you want to, if you’re a manufacturer, you want to go into China? It’s very hard to get your product in, and if you get it in you have to pay a very big tax. HIATT: So, if they occupied what the Japanese call the Senkaku Islands, is that something the United States… TRUMP: Well, I, you know, again, I don’t like to tell you what I’d do, because I don’t want to… You understand what I’m saying, Fred? If I… Okay, if I say ‘Well, we should go in and do this or that or that,’ I don’t want to, I don’t want to sort of… red flag all over it. I do think this: It’s an unbelievable thing that they’ve done, it’s unbelievable aggression, it’s unbelievable lack of respect for this country. HIATT: This theory of unpredictability, I want to push a little bit, I mean — there are many people who think that North Korea invaded South Korea precisely because Acheson wasn’t clear that we would defend South Korea. So I’m curious, does ambiguity sometimes have dangers? TRUMP: Well I’ll give you, I’ll give you an example. President Obama, when he left Iraq, gave a specific date — we’re going to be out. I thought that was a terrible thing to do. And the enemy pulled back, because they don’t want die. Despite what you read, you know, they don’t want to die — and they just pulled back, and after we left, all hell broke out, right? And I’ll give you another example that I think was terrible: when they sent, a few months ago, they sent fifty troops in. You know, fifty elite troops. Now, why do we have to have a news conference to announce that we’re sending fifty troops? So those troops now have targets on their back. And…you shouldn’t do it. We’re so predictable: “Ladies and gentlemen, we’re sending fifty troops into Iraq or Syria. And these are our elite troops. And they’re going to do this and that and that and this.” And those troops now are being hunted. If you didn’t send them, they wouldn’t — if you didn’t say that, they wouldn’t know. I mean, there are times when you just can’t be… You talk too much. We talk too much. I guess they thought that was good politically, to say we’re sending fifty troops? I don’t think it was good. LANE: Can I ask you…Just going back to NATO, because… TRUMP: Yes. LANE: As you know, the whole theory of NATO from the beginning was to keep the United States involved in the long term in Europe to balance, to promote a balance of power in that region so we wouldn’t have a repeat of World War I and World War 2. And it seems to be like what you’re saying is very similar to what President Obama said to Jeffrey Goldberg, in that we have allies that become free riders. So it seems like there’s some convergence with the president there. What concerns me about both is that to some extent it was always thought to be in our interest that we, yes, we would take some of the burden on, yes, even if the net-net was not 100 percent, even steven, with the Germans. So I’d like to hear you say very specifically, you know, with respect to NATO, what is your ask of these other countries? Right, you’ve painted it in very broad terms, but do you have a percent of GDP that they should be spending on defense? Tell me more. Because it’s not that you want to pull the U.S. out. TRUMP: No, I don’t want to pull it out. NATO was set up at a different time. NATO was set up when we were a richer country. We’re not a rich country. We’re borrowing, we’re borrowing all of this money. We’re borrowing money from China, which is a sort of an amazing situation. But things are a much different thing. NATO is costing us a fortune and yes, we’re protecting Europe but we’re spending a lot of money. Number 1, I think the distribution of costs has to be changed. I think NATO as a concept is good, but it is not as good as it was when it first evolved. And I think we bear the, you know, not only financially, we bear the biggest brunt of it. Obama has been stronger on the Ukraine than all the other countries put together, and those other countries right next door to the Ukraine. And I just say we have, I’m not even knocking it, I’m just saying I don’t think it’s fair, we’re not treated fair. I don’t think we’re treated fair, Charles, anywhere. If you look everything we have. You know, South Korea is very rich. Great industrial country. And yet we’re not reimbursed fairly for what we do. We’re constantly, you know, sending our ships, sending our planes, doing our war games, doing other. We’re reimbursed a fraction of what this is all costing. LANE: You know, well, they say and I think this is on public record, it’s basically 50 percent of the non-personnel cost is paid by South Korea and Japan. TRUMP: 50 percent? LANE: Yeah. TRUMP: Why isn’t it 100 percent? HIATT: Well I guess the question is, does the United States gain anything by having bases? TRUMP: Personally I don’t think so. I personally don’t think so. Look. I have great relationships with South Korea. I have buildings in South Korea. But that’s a wealthy country. They make the ships, they make the televisions, they make the air conditioning. They make tremendous amounts of products. It’s a huge, it’s a massive industrial complex country. And — HIATT: So you don’t think the US gains from being the force that sort of that helps keep the peace in the Pacific? TRUMP: I think that we are not in the position that we used to be. I think we were a very powerful, very wealthy country. And we’re a poor country now. We’re a debtor nation. How you going to get rid — let me ask you — how are you going get rid of $21 trillion in debt? You’re going to be at 21 trillion in a matter of minutes because of that new omnibus budget. So they passed that ridiculous omnibus budget. How you going to get rid of that debt. We’re spending that to protect other countries. We’re not spending it on ourselves. Because we have, we have armor-plated vehicles that are obsolete. The best ones are given to the enemy. We give them to our allies over in the Middle East. A bullet shot in the air and they immediately run and the enemy takes over. I have a friend whose son is in his third, his third tour over in Iraq. He’s over in, I mean he’s a very special kid, he’s a great kid. But he’s over in the Middle East, and, uh, Afghanistan, different parts of the Middle East, actually. And he said to me, I said to him what do you think. And he said, it’s so sad. He said the enemy has our equipment — the new version — and we have all the old version, and the enemy has our equipment, because they get into a fight with the so-called people like the Freedom Fighters, you know the whole Syrian deal, where we’re sending billions and billions of dollars’ worth, and they capture the equipment. In most cases the shots are fired and everybody leaves. And these are the people we’re backing. And we don’t know if it’s going to be another Saddam Hussein deal, in other words, let’s get rid of Assad with these people and these people end up being worse. Okay? But he said, they have better equipment. It’s our equipment. They have, I guess we send 2,300 Humvees over, all armor-plated. So we have wounded warriors, with no legs, with no arms, because they were driving in stuff without the armor. And the enemy has most of the new ones we sent over that they captured. And he said, it’s so discouraging when they see that the enemy has better equipment than we have — and it’s our equipment. (Transcript of Donald Trump’s Meeting with the Washington Post Editorial Board, March 21, 2016)


3/22/16:
KCNA: “Supreme Commander of the Korean People’s Army (KPA) Kim Jong Un, first secretary of the Workers’ Party of Korea (WPK) and first chairman of the National Defense Commission of the DPRK, again guided the fire of the new type large-caliber multiple rocket launching system. He took an observation post with the officials accompanying him before giving an order to start the fire. Watching the results of the fire, he expressed great satisfaction over the perfect accuracy of rockets. He highly praised once again the officials, scientists and technicians in the field of defense science and munitions factories for successfully manufacturing the system which is of great strategic importance in remarkably increasing the capability of the KPA to mount a precision attack on the enemies’ targets in the operational theater in the southern part of Korea. He expressed great expectation and belief that they would bring the greatest heyday in the development of national defense science this year when the Seventh Congress of the WPK is to be held by steadily intensifying the work for developing new Juche-based weapons of Korean style, true to the WPK’s idea of attaching importance to national defense science and technology, before having a photo taken with them. He was accompanied by KPA Vice Marshal Hwang Pyong So, director of the General Political Bureau of the KPA, Army General Ri Myong Su, chief of the KPA General Staff, Army Col. General Yun Tong Hyon, vice-minister of the People’s Armed Forces, and Jo Yong Won, Hong Yong Chil and Kim Jong Sik, vice department directors of the C.C., WPK. (KCNA, “Kim Jong Un Again Guides Fire of New Type Large-Caliber Multiple Rocket Launching System,” March 22, 2016) North Korea’s new large caliber rocket launcher system has the range to strike large parts of South Korea, posing new security challenges for Seoul’s military, observers said. The assessment of security threats comes after KCNA carried a report earlier in the day showing a photo of its leader Kim Jong-un being present at the final test-fire of a multiple rocket launching system (MLRS). It said the new system is ready for combat deployment. The new weapon would help increase “the capability of the Korean People’s Army (KPA) to mount a precision attack on the enemies’ targets in the operational theater in the southern part of Korea,” KCNA claimed. South Korea’s military has been tracking North Korea’s tests of the newest multiple rocket launching system with a 300 millimeter caliber since the country was first seen test-firing it in mid-2013. In October last year, the North showed off the system during a military parade to mark the anniversary of the ruling Workers’ Party of Korea. Currently, North Korea has three types of the multiple launcher system actually used by combat troops, with the largest having a caliber of 240 mm. The forthcoming introduction of a larger-caliber launcher system into North Korea’s arsenal would significantly enhance the country’s attack capability. The rockets fired near the northeastern city of Hamhung early this week flew some 200 kilometers, according to the Joint Chiefs of Staff. This means they can easily fly over South Korea’s capital of Seoul and even reach far down into the country, should they be fired near the inter-Korean border. Possible targets within this range include the headquarters of the military’s three branches — Army, Navy and Air Force — in the central province of South Chungcheong, and the new base of the United States Forces Korea in Pyeongtaek. In terms of warheads, these rockets could carry high-yield explosives or dual-purpose improved conventional munitions that, after being fired, burst into sub-munitions over the target area for anti-armor and antipersonnel attacks. (Yonhap, “Newly Unveiled N.K. Rocket Launcher Can Hit Large Parts of S. Korea,” March 22, 2016)

Defense Secretary Ashton Carter said the US and South Korea had agreed in principle to deploy THAAD (Terminal High Altitude Area Defense) on the Korean Peninsula. While the South Korean Defense Ministry has already treated the THAAD deployment as an accomplished fact, this is the first time for a high-ranking official in the US government to confirm it. After making this statement in a hearing about the defense budget before the House Armed Services Committee, Carter said that the reason for deploying THAAD is “to be able to protect the entirety of the peninsula against North Korean missiles of greater range.” “That’s why we want to add THAAD to the already existing Patriots, both South Korean Patriots and U.S. Patriots,” he said. While there had been some speculation that the two countries would postpone the deployment of THAAD in exchange for China’s cooperation in tougher sanctions against North Korea, the US and South Korea officially launched a joint working group to deliberate the deployment of THAAD on March 4. “Deliberations in the joint working group are addressing the selection of an appropriate site for deploying THAAD along with issues of safety, the environment and cost. Once the deliberations have made some progress, this will be brought to the attention of the public,” said a source in the South Korean military. Some of the possible sites mentioned for deploying THAAD include Pyeongtaek, Wonju, Daegu and Chilgol. “This is a very sensitive issue for the partners throughout the region, especially when you look at South Korea, one of [China’s] largest trading partners [ … ] so we don’t minimize the sensitivity of these discussions,” said US Lieutenant General David Mann, who heads up the US Army Space and Missile Defense Command. Mann spoke with reporters from a defense industry publication. (Lee Yong-in and Park Byong-su, “s. Korea and U.S. Agree in Principle to Deploy THAAD System,” Hankyore, March 24, 2016)

Senior officials from South Korea and Japan resumed working-level discussions on implementing the agreement that the two countries reached on December 28 on the issue of the comfort women for the Imperial Japanese Army. Chung Byung-won, director-general for Northeast Asian Affairs at South Korea’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, met today with Ishikane Kimihiro, director-general of the Asian and Oceanian Affairs Bureau at Japan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Tokyo to discuss how to proceed with implementing the agreement. This was the first deliberation between director general level officials since Japan and South Korea made the December 28 agreement. Prior to the settlement, the two governments had organized 12 such meetings, beginning in April 2014, in regard to the comfort women issue. “Based on our conclusion about the importance of the swift implementation of the December 28 agreement, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs is currently in deliberations with the Ministry of Gender Equality and Family and the related departments in regard to the issue of setting up the foundation,” said South Korea’s Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Cho June-hyuck during today’s regular press conference. Sankei Shimbun reported that the governments of the two countries will begin moving forward this summer with efforts to establish the foundation called for in the agreement they reached at the end of last year. In order to achieve this, Japanese Prime Minister Abe Shinzo is planning to meet with South Korean President Park Geun-hye during the Nuclear Security Summit that will be held in the U.S. starting on March 31 to reconfirm that both countries are definitely going to implement the agreement, the paper reported. From that point through this summer, South Korea and Japan plan to continue working-level deliberations toward implementing the agreement while also attempting to placate the former comfort women and groups that support them, including the Korean Council for the Women Drafted for Military Sexual Slavery by Japan (Jeongdaehyeop). Arrangements will also be made for removing a statue of a young woman symbolizing the comfort women from in front of the Japanese Embassy in Seoul to coincide with the establishment of the foundation, the Sankei Shimbun reported. However, the fact is that there is virtually no chance of the former comfort women and Jeongdaehyeop accepting the December 28 agreement. If South Korea’s political opposition is crushed in the April general elections, the Park administration is very likely to accept the 1 billion yen (US$8.30 million) in funding from the Japanese government and to push ahead with establishing the foundation. (Gil Yun-hyung and Lee Je-hun, “S. Korea and Japan Have Highest-Level Meeting Yet on Comfort Women Agreement,” Hankyore, March 23, 2016)


3/23/16:
CPRK “crucial report in connection with the fact that the reckless military provocations of the U.S. and the Park Geun Hye group of traitors of south Korea against the DPRK have gone beyond the tolerance limit. At the instigation of the U.S. imperialists the south Korean warmongers dared stage an outrageous “precision strike drill” aimed to destroy the office of the supreme headquarters of the DPRK on March 21 with 16 fighter bombers carrying air-to-surface guided missiles involved. … This is a thrice-cursed provocation to the dignity of the supreme leadership of the DPRK and intolerable hideous confrontation action. Under authorization, the CPRK clarifies the following actions to cope with the prevailing grave situation: From this moment all the actions of the revolutionary armed forces of the DPRK including the regular units of the Korean People’s Army (KPA), the Workers-Peasant Red Guards, the Young Red Guards and all people will be oriented to launch a retaliatory battle of justice in order to resolutely eliminate the Park Geun Hye group of traitors on this land and under this sky. The battle to be fought by the DPRK will be the sacred one for devotedly defending the leader and the one for annihilating the enemy without mercy. We do not hide the fact that it may start inside the Chongwadae or near it. We had already declared that all the dens of the enemy in south Korea including the Chongwadae are the primary targets of the ultra-precision strike means of the Strategic Force of the KPA ready to go into action. The powerful large-caliber multiple rocket launching systems of the invincible KPA artillery units are highly alerted to scorch the Chongwadae bossed by Park Geun Hye in a jiffy. Once their buttons are pushed, it is bound to be reduced to a sea in flames and ashes. The KPA units behind enemy lines to be deployed in the operational theater of the southern part of Korea are fully ready to start a storm operation, lightning operation to conquer the Chongwadae and other major targets at one blow any time and mercilessly wipe out Park Geun Hye and other south Korean warmongers. The U.S. imperialists and the Park group should clearly understand the will of all the service personnel and people of the DPRK to annihilate the enemy as they regard their supreme headquarters and dignity dearer than their own lives. There’s a limit to our patience. The U.S. imperialists and the Park group of traitors had better pay heed to the DPRK’s warning that it has done everything required after having access to everything necessary. They would be well advised to behave prudently, if they wish to spend their remaining days. Once it is determined, the DPRK will launch a preemptive attack operation of Korean style to wipe out not only the Park Geun Hye group of traitors but all big or small strongholds of aggression the way the world has never known. What the DPRK warns is not hot air. It will be clearly proved by the miserable end the U.S. and the Park group will meet while going reckless.” (KCNA, “DPRK Will Show in Practice Its Warning Is Not Empty Talk: CPRK,” March 23, 2016)


3/24/16:
KCNA: “Supreme Commander of the Korean People’s Army Kim Jong Un, first secretary of the Workers’ Party of Korea (WPK) and first chairman of the National Defense Commission of the DPRK, personally came out to the testing site and guided the ground test of jet of high-power solid-fuel rocket engine and its cascade separation. The test was aimed to examine the structural safety of the rocket engine newly designed and manufactured by the Korean style and its thrust and estimate the working specifications of heat separation system and other system. Before the test, he touched the engine smoothly and said with confidence that the test would prove successful as it was manufactured by defense scientists and technicians of the DPRK, a product of self-reliance and self-development. He gave an instruction to start the test. The engine spewed out huge flames with deafening boom. The results of the test proved that the values of estimation conformed to those of measurement to an amazing extent and they are in full line with all scientific and technological indexes. He expressed great pleasure and satisfaction, clapping his hands and congratulating them on their success. He noted with great pleasure that the successful test provided a firm guarantee for attaining the high goals of national defense science and technology without fail this year when the Seventh Congress of the WPK would be held and helped boost the power of ballistic rockets capable of mercilessly striking hostile forces. The successful test of the jet and cascade separation of the above-said rocket engine which is of historical and strategic importance by dint of self-reliance and self-development makes it possible to remarkably bolster the military capability of the invincible revolutionary Paektusan army, he noted, stressing that the feats the national defense scientists and technicians of the DPRK performed by working hard to increase the national defense capability would always go down in the history of the country. He had a photo session with them. He expressed expectation and belief that the scientists and technicians in the field of national defense science would achieve successes one after another to instill conviction and optimism into the service personnel and people of the DPRK and, at the same time, strike great horror and terror into the hearts of the enemies, bearing in mind the heavy yet honorable duties they have assumed before the times, the revolution, the country and its people.” (KCNA, “Kim Jong Un Guides Ground Test of Jet of High-Power Solid-Fuel Rocket Engine and Its Cascade Separation,” March 24, 2016)

“North Korea appears to be in the (early) stages of developing solid-fuel rockets,” Moon Sang-gyun, spokesman of the Ministry of National Defense, said during a press briefing. “North Korea’s switch to solid fuel means it could do (missile) launches frequently.” South Korea’s military takes the move as a serious development and is preparing countermeasures, he said. Currently, North Korea relies on liquid fuel to propel most of its ranged ballistic missiles, including the short-range Scud, mid-range Nodong and the KN-08 intercontinental ballistic missiles. Using liquid fuel means that fueling a rocket takes longer, allowing the outside world more time to detect an imminent launch and predict its timeframe. Solid propellant helps reduce the time that the fueling stage takes, thus significantly reducing the chance of launch preparations being noticed by outside surveillance. Still, it may take a long while for North Korea to complete the development of solid-fuel intercontinental ballistic missiles, experts said. “It is possible for the Scud and Rodong missiles to have solid rocket fuel, but it may take time for it to be used on the KN-08,” Lee Chun-geun, a researcher at the Science and Technology Policy Institute, said. (Yonhap, “Seoul Confirms North Korea’s Push to Develop Solid-Fuel Rockets,” Korea Times, March 24, 2016)

President Park Geun-hye ordered the government to strengthen the level of vigilance across the country, an official said, as North Korea has ratcheted up its threats against its southern neighbor. The chief executive also “instructed the military to be fully prepared to aggressively cope with North Korea’s reckless provocations,” Kim Sung-woo, chief presidential press secretary, told reporters. North Korea threatened to turn the presidential office into a “sea of flames and ashes” and warned yesterday that it is militarily ready to start operations to hit major targets and “mercilessly wipe out” Park and “other South Korean warmongers.” Reflecting the seriousness of the threat, the country convened a session of the National Security Council during which senior officials told the military to closely monitor the North Korean situation and get ready to retaliate against the North if provoked. The NSC told police and other relevant organizations to take all necessary measures to tighten security. Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Gen. Lee Sun-jin also convened an emergency meeting of military commanders later in the day, vowing to sternly punish the North in case of any further provocations. The South Korean military is maintaining its high-level vigilance posture since the North carried out its fourth nuclear test in January, according to the defense ministry. (Yonhap, “Park Orders Military to Brace for Possible N. Korean Provocation,” March 24, 2016)


3/25/16:
KCNA: “Supreme Commander of the Korean People’s Army (KPA) Kim Jong Un, first secretary of the Workers’ Party of Korea (WPK) and first chairman of the National Defense Commission of the DPRK, guided the large-scale intensive striking drill of long-range artillery pieces of the KPA large combined units on the front for blowing up the Chongwadae and the reactionary ruling machines in Seoul. The largest-ever exercise was aimed to demonstrate once again the might of the Paektusan army to bring the most miserable doom to the U.S. imperialists and the south Korean puppet group of traitors through the above-said striking action for turning into a sea of flames Seoul, the den of the Park Geun Hye group of traitors who dared stage the undisguised “precision striking drill” targeting the supreme headquarters of the Korean revolution and the office of the WPK Central Committee. Involved in the drill were more than one hundred long-range artillery pieces of various calibers including the Juche artillery pieces of the elite artillery units of the large combined units on the front. Prior to the start of the drill, General Pak Yong Sik, minister of the People’s Armed Forces, made a speech. The firing drill of artillery pieces today is the one for devotedly defending the Supreme Commander and the retaliatory one of justice to demonstrate the tremendous might of the Paektusan Army to inflict the most miserable doom upon traitor Park Geun Hye, he said. He called upon the elite artillery combatants of the large combined units on the front to make large intensive strikes with long-range artillery pieces, reflecting the faith of devotedly defending the leader and the unshakable resolution to annihilate the enemy, and thus blow up the Chongwadae and the reactionary ruling machines in Seoul bossed by the Park Geun Hye puppet group of traitors. Kim Jong Un mounted a field observation post and received a report on the plan for the drill before issuing an order to start it. The moment, the artillery pieces opened fire with deafening roar, fiercely pounding the imaginary targets — the Chongwadae and the puppet reactionary ruling machines in Seoul. Watching the brave artillerymen on the front mercilessly hit the targets, he said they are very good at firing. I am pleased with their very accurate striking, he added. Expressing great satisfaction over the successful drill, he extended the thanks of the KPA Supreme Commander to all units which participated in the drill. He said that the KPA should prepare all service personnel as a match-for-a-hundred fighters capable of fighting actual battles by intensifying their training just as the anti-Japanese guerrillas did in Mt. Paektu and keep itself highly alerted so that it may mercilessly pound the reactionary ruling machines in Seoul, the cesspool of evils, and advance to accomplish the historic cause of national reunification, once it receives an order for attack. Watching the drill were executive members of the KPA Committee of the WPK, commanding officers of the General Political Bureau, the Ministry of the People’s Armed Forces and the General Staff of the KPA, commanders and political commissars of all services, corps commanders and political commissars, commanders and political commissars of artillery units, instructors of military academies at all levels and officials of the C.C., the WPK.” (KCNA, “Kim Jong Un Guides Large-Scale Intensive Striking Drill of Long-Range Artillery Pieces,” March 25, 2016)

A Korean-American man detained in North Korea has confessed to stealing military secrets and plotting subversion with South Koreans, the North’s official news agency and foreign media reported. Kim Dong Chul, who has previously said he was a naturalized American citizen and was arrested in North Korea in October, admitted to committing “unpardonable espionage” under the direction of the U.S. and South Korean governments and deeply apologized for his crimes, KCNA said. “The extraordinary crime I committed was defaming and insulting the republic’s highest dignity and its system and spreading false propaganda aimed at breaking down its solidarity,” KCNA quoted Kim as saying. A source in the North Korean capital of Pyongyang told Reuters that diplomats were notified in the morning of the confession and Kim’s comments were similar to the recent confession of another American being held there, Otto Warmbier. The U.S. State Department said it was aware of the reported incident but had no further details, citing privacy concerns. “The welfare of U.S. citizens is one of the Department’s highest priorities,” department spokeswoman Elizabeth Trudeau said in a statement. Kim apologized for trying to steal military and state secrets in collusion with South Koreans, and said he was paid for doing it. He described the acts as aimed at overthrowing the North Korean regime, KCNA said. Photographs issued by the North’s state news agency showed Kim bowing and wiping away tears. Kyodo and Xinhua also reported Kim’s meeting with media outlets in Pyongyang where he confessed to anti-state activities. Kim spoke of making contacts with South Koreans to pass secret information contained in USB memory sticks and also images state media said were damaging to the North on data storage cards. Outside information is strictly controlled in North Korea and ordinary people there often use USB sticks or other portable memory drives to share foreign media. A defector from the North previously told Reuters that Kim was a Christian pastor who had worked in China and the United States and sent medical aid into the North. CNN reported in January that Kim was 60 and from Fairfax, Virginia, and that he said he had spied on behalf of South Korea. Kim told media he was born in Seoul in 1953 and moved to the United States when he was 19. He said he set up a business in the North Korean special economic zone of Rason in 2008, KCNA said. He said his two daughters lived in New York and he had siblings in South Korea, it said. (Jack Kim and James Pearson, “Korean-American in North Korea Confesses to Stealing Secrets — Media,” Reuters, March 25, 2016)

President Park Geun-hye warned that North Korea’s provocations will eventually lead to the regime’s self-destruction, as she ramped up pressure on the isolationist regime to give up its nuclear weapons program. “The Republic of Korea will stay firm despite North Korea’s threats and the regime will eventually self-destruct with its consistent provocations,” Park said during a ceremony at the national cemetery in the central city of Daejeon. The ceremony was held to commemorate South Korean military personnel killed in three separate clashes with North Korea in the Yellow Sea area. “North Korea is currently isolated due to the unprecedented sanctions imposed by the international community which means there is a higher chance that the regime may carry out further reckless provocations,” Park said. Earlier in the day, North Korean leader Kim Jong-un called on the military to be ready to strike government organizations in Seoul. During his inspection of a long-range artillery exercise, Kim said the North’s military should be ready to “ruthlessly” destroy South Korea’s government bodies. (Yonhap, “Park Warns That N. Korea’s Provocation Lead to Self-Destruction,” March 25, 2016)

South Korea’s top military commander checked the combat readiness of frontline troops as inter-Korean tensions have flared up in the face of North Korea’s continuing provocations. Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Gen. Lee Sun-jin visited the VIII Corps and Navy 1st Fleet earlier in the day to look into their military preparedness, the military said. The Army corps is in charge of guarding the eastern part of the heavily militarized border while the Navy fleet defends the East Sea area. “North Korea is likely to launch sudden provocations at an unexpected time and place,” the four-star general said. He said Pyongyang could also conduct an additional nuclear test or launch a long-range missile. Other possibilities involve artillery attacks, drone infiltration or terrorist activities in the rear, he noted. “In the event of provocations, retaliate powerfully and without hesitation,” the JCS chairman stressed to Army servicemen. During his visit with Navy troops, Lee brought up earlier maritime military clashes with North Korea, and ordered the forces to “safeguard the East Sea at all cost so such tragedies would never be repeated.” (Yonhap, “S. Korea’s Top Military Commander Checks Frontline Combat Readiness,” March 25, 2016)

The Philippines has released a cargo ship linked to North Korea that it had seized as part of tough new United Nations sanctions imposed on the reclusive country, an official said. “There is no longer any basis to continue to hold the M.V. Jin Teng,” said Charles Jose, a spokesman for the Philippine Department of Foreign Affairs. The Jin Teng, a 4,355-ton vessel, had been held since March 4 in Subic Bay, a port 50 miles north of Manila. The ship flew a Sierra Leone flag and was linked through registration to other countries, Philippine officials said, but it carried a crew of 21 North Korean sailors and was one of 31 vessels that had been listed as owned by North Korea under an annex to United Nations Security Council Resolution 2270. The Jin Teng and three other vessels were later removed from the list of ships to be searched and seized under the resolution, Reuters reported this week. The report said China had asked for their removal from the list, quoting its ambassador to the United Nations as saying the ships did not belong to Ocean Maritime Management Company, a North Korean shipping firm targeted by the sanctions. The Philippine Coast Guard said it had searched the ship and found no weapons or other contraband. The vessel was carrying palm kernel expeller, a commodity often used as livestock feed, the coast guard said. In seizing the ship, the Philippines became the first country in the world to enforce the new sanctions. The ship left the Philippines yesterday bound for China, with the North Korean crew members aboard, according to the coast guard. (Floyd Whaley, “Philippines Releases Cargo Ship Linked to North Korea,” New York Times, March 26, 2016, p. A-3)


3/26/16:
KCNA: “The recent simultaneous firings conducted by the long-range artillery force of the Korean People’s Army, rocking the earth and sky, turned the imaginary enemy bases of provocation into a sea of flames in a flash. This was a great eruption of its irrepressible hatred and wrath at the enemy which committed the thrice-cursed act of daring attempt to hurt the dignity of the supreme leadership of the DPRK. It was, at the same time, the beginning of the merciless retaliatory campaign to put the most miserable end to the Park Geun Hye group of south Korea. The long-range artillery force of the large combined unit of the KPA on the front sent the following ultimatum to the Park Geun Hye group Saturday [March 26]: 1. The thrice-cursed traitor Park and her group should make an official apology to all Koreans in the north, the south and abroad for daring commit high treason. Our dignified sun of Songun represents the life and destiny of all Koreans and their rosy future. It is the worst crime never to be pardoned in the world to dare attempt to slander and do harm to the sun. The Park group should apologize to all Koreans. This will be the last and the best way for it to spend its remaining days. 2. Park Geun Hye, traitor without an equal in the world, and her group should mete out the severest punishment to the worst criminals at once as they mapped out the thrice-cursed “operation for striking the leadership” and dreamed of its implementation and finish them off without mercy on behalf of all Koreans. If there is a sin which must not be committed as a human being in the world, it is a foolish act to do harm to the sun in the sky. Neither excuse nor evasion of responsibility is allowed for such high treason. It only deserves the severest punishment of Heaven. Put them to death in the eyes of all fellow countrymen. This would be the last opportunity for the Chongwadae, cesspool of evils, and reactionary ruling machines to escape baptism of retaliatory fire. 3. If matchless traitor Park Geun Hye and her group do not respond to the ultimatum of the KPA, the long-range artillery force of the KPA large combined unit on the front will move over to merciless military action. Public apology and punishment are the ultimatum of the long-range artillery force of the KPA which keeps the Chongwadae and the reactionary ruling machines within the firing range and waits for an order for a preemptive strike to punish the enemies. If the force pushes the button for intensive strike, the enemy’s positions that produced all evils and tragedies of confrontation between compatriots and national division will turn into ashes in a moment. No matter how busy Park and her group may go, talking about the “strengthening of guard posture across south Korea” and “urgent meeting of operational officers”, this would get them nowhere. The only way out for them is to sincerely accept the ultimatum of the KPA. They should always remember that the Chongwadae and the reactionary ruling machines are within the intensive striking range of the long-range artillery force of the KPA large combined unit on the front. What the Paektusan army says is not hot air.” (KCNA, “KPA Long-Range Artillery Force Sends Ultimatum to Park Guen Hye Group,” March 26, 2016)

South Korea’s civic group, Fighters for a Free North Korea, floated some 80,000 anti-Pyongyang leaflets across the inter-Korean border Saturday amid rising tensions sparked by the North’s nuclear tests and missile launches. Five members of the group said they have floated 30,000 leaflets from the city of Gimpo and 50,000 from Paju, Gyeonggi Province, in their bid to criticize the communist regime. The S. Korean government, despite the growing tension from the North over the leaflet campaign, has largely remained disinclined to mitigate the matter. (Ko Dong-hwan, “Activists Float Anti-Pyongyang Leaflets to N. Korea,” Korea Times, March 26, 2016)

A North Korean Web site unveiled video footage in which its submarine-launched ballistic missile scorches Washington D.C., ratcheting up its provocative acts in defiance of international pressure.

The 4-minute long footage, uploaded on the website of dprktoday.com, one of the North’s propaganda sites for outside online users, shows an SLBM, after re-entering the earth’s atmosphere from outer space, hitting the U.S.’ capital. (Yonhap, “N. Korea Unveils Video Footage Showing SLBM Attack on Washington,” March 26, 2016)

Tensions along China’s border with North Korea’s have noticeably heightened since the U.N. Security Council imposed tougher sanctions to protest Pyongyang’s latest nuclear and missile tests. Three Chinese fighter jets were recently spotted flying over the border area. But otherwise, it was business as usual as trade back and forth across the border continued as before. Dandong in Liaoning province is a popular tourist destination because pleasure boats depart there for trips along the Yalu River, which separates the two countries. The boats allow passengers to glimpse North Korea up-close. However, temporary checkpoints have been erected on roads in the area. Large vehicles from the border patrol are also more evident in the region. An observation deck at a Chinese hotel that faces the Yalu River was closed after the sanctions were imposed. A hotel official said the government ordered the deck closed. A restaurant where North Korean women perform in regular singing shows has few patrons these days. Such restaurants used to be popular with South Korean tourists, but business fell off after Seoul warned off visitors on grounds that profits for the enterprises might be used for the development of nuclear weapons and missiles by North Korea. However, private-sector activity appeared to be continuing as usual. Trucks were seen transporting all manner of goods across the bridge connecting Dandong with the North Korean city of Sinuiju, which lies across the Yalu River. The trucks carried electrical appliances, construction materials and fruit. An official working in the local produce market said, “More than 30 percent of the produce goes to North Korea.” North Korean products such as crabs and shellfish were also found in markets at Yanji, which is in the Yanbian Korean Autonomous Prefecture. One trader who does business between the two nations said: “The economy along the border is supported by North Korea. The sanctions have also had a negative effect on the Chinese side as well.” However, the sanctions have not deterred an estimated 3,000 North Koreans from continuing to work at an industrial park in Tumen, which is in the Yanbian Korean Autonomous Prefecture. An industry source said companies pay North Korean personnel dispatch firms between 2,000 won and 3,000 won (about 35,000 yen and 52,000 yen, or $308 and $457) a month per worker. “They are hard workers who receive lower wages than Chinese workers,” said the source. Each worker gets paid about 600 won. Much of that wage is believed to go to the North Korean state. The sanctions do not cover wages earned outside of North Korea. (Yagi Takaharu and Hiraga Takuya, “China-N. Korea Border More Tense As Sanctions Bite,” Asahi Shimbun, March 26, 2016)

Trump interview: “HABERMAN: I wanted to ask you about some things that you said in Washington on Monday, more recently. But you’ve talked about them a bunch. So, you have said on several occasions that you want Japan and South Korea to pay more for their own defense. You’ve been saying versions of that about Japan for 30 years. Would you object if they got their own nuclear arsenal, given the threat that they face from North Korea and China? TRUMP: Well, you know, at some point, there is going to be a point at which we just can’t do this anymore. And, I know the upsides and the downsides. But right now we’re protecting, we’re basically protecting Japan, and we are, every time North Korea raises its head, you know, we get calls from Japan and we get calls from everybody else, and “Do something.” And there’ll be a point at which we’re just not going to be able to do it anymore. Now, does that mean nuclear? It could mean nuclear. It’s a very scary nuclear world. Biggest problem, to me, in the world, is nuclear, and proliferation. At the same time, you know, we’re a country that doesn’t have money. You know, when we did these deals, we were a rich country. We’re not a rich country. We were a rich country with a very strong military and tremendous capability in so many ways. We’re not anymore. We have a military that’s severely depleted. We have nuclear arsenals which are in very terrible shape. They don’t even know if they work. We’re not the same country, Maggie and David, I mean, I think you would both agree. SANGER: So, just to follow Maggie’s thought there, though, the Japanese view has always been, if the United States, at any point, felt as if it was uncomfortable defending them, there has always been a segment of Japanese society, and of Korean society that said, “Well, maybe we should have our own nuclear deterrent, because if the U.S. isn’t certain, we need to make sure the North Koreans know that.” Is that a reasonable position? Do you think at some point they should have their own arsenal? TRUMP: Well, it’s a position that we have to talk about, and it’s a position that at some point is something that we have to talk about, and if the United States keeps on its path, its current path of weakness, they’re going to want to have that anyway with or without me discussing it, because I don’t think they feel very secure in what’s going on with our country, David. You know, if you look at how we backed our enemies, it hasn’t — how we backed our allies — it hasn’t exactly been strong. When you look at various places throughout the world, it hasn’t been very strong. And I just don’t think we’re viewed the same way that we were 20 or 25 years ago, or 30 years ago. And, you know, I think it’s a problem. You know, something like that, unless we get very strong, very powerful and very rich, quickly, I’m sure those things are being discussed over there anyway without our discussion. HABERMAN: Will you — SANGER: And would you have an objection to it? TRUMP: Um, at some point, we cannot be the policeman of the world. And unfortunately, we have a nuclear world now. And you have, Pakistan has them. You have, probably, North Korea has them. I mean, they don’t have delivery yet, but you know, probably, I mean to me, that’s a big problem. And, would I rather have North Korea have them with Japan sitting there having them also? You may very well be better off if that’s the case. In other words, where Japan is defending itself against North Korea, which is a real problem. You very well may have a better case right there. We certainly haven’t been able to do much with him and with North Korea. But you may very well have a better case. You know, one of the things with the, with our Japanese relationship, and I’m a big fan of Japan, by the way. I have many, many friends there. I do business with Japan. But, that, if we are attacked, they don’t have to do anything. If they’re attacked, we have to go out with full force. You understand. That’s a pretty one-sided agreement, right there. In other words, if we’re attacked, they do not have to come to our defense, if they’re attacked, we have to come totally to their defense. And that is a, that’s a real problem. … SANGER: There are several countries that have joined NATO in recent times — Estonia, among them, and so forth — that we are now bound by treaty to defend if Russia moved in. Would you observe that part of the treaty? TRUMP: Yeah, I would. It’s a treaty, it’s there. I mean, we defend everybody. (Laughs.) We defend everybody. No matter who it is, we defend everybody. We’re defending the world. But we owe, soon, it’s soon to be $21 trillion. You know, it’s 19 now but it’s soon to be 21 trillion. But we defend everybody. When in doubt, come to the United States. We’ll defend you. In some cases free of charge. And in all cases for a substantially, you know, greater amount. We spend a substantially greater amount than what the people are paying. We, we have to thin